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Home » Student Success » Resources by Subject Area » Sexual Health Education

Sexual Health Education

What's New

Coronavirus Guidance for Required HIV Prevention Instruction is now available. Updated 4/28.

New legislation (SB 5395), passed by the Legislature in 2020, is suspended. If it goes into law it will require all school districts to provide comprehensive sexual health education by the 2022-23 school year.

Contact Information

Sexual Health Education

Laurie Dils
360-725-6364

OSPI provides technical assistance and support to schools by promoting best practices in HIV/AIDS prevention and sexual health education. The Guide to Sexual Health Education Implementation in Washington State (2020) summarizes legislative requirements and best practices for providing sexual health education in schools. 

Washington state law requires annual HIV/AIDS prevention education beginning in grade 5, in accordance with the AIDS Omnibus Act. The KNOW curriculum is one option for meeting HIV/AIDS prevention requirements in grades 5-8.

The Healthy Youth Act (state law) and Health Education K-12 Learning Standards provide a framework for districts choosing to provide sexual health education beyond HIV/AIDS prevention.

Remote Learning Considerations

The need for medically accurate sexual health education is greater than ever as students spend more time online, and often have more unsupervised time.

  • Address increased needs related to online safety, healthy relationships, and consent.
  • Relate required HIV/STD prevention instruction to COVID-19 prevention strategies.
  • Create a safe space for students to engage in the conversation and ask questions – develop group norms, consider the use of avatars in class, use Anonymous Google Doc Settings, Sli.do, Mentimeter, or Poll Everywhere for anonymous questions.
  • Address challenges related to privacy – consider using both synchronous and asynchronous instruction to allow flexibility; consider requiring/providing earbuds.
  • Engage families – notify them of planned instruction, offer and honor opt-outs, keep them informed, use family homework assignments related to classroom instruction.

Remote Learning Considerations for all content areas, including Health Education, can be found on OSPI’s COVID-19 Guidance and Resources webpage.

New Requirements

Senate Bill 5395, passed by the legislature in 2020, is suspended. If it goes into law it will add new requirements for schools starting in the 2020-2021 school year. Current and new requirements are listed below by grade band.


Sexual Health Education Requirements

What is currently required?

No sexual health content is currently required for grades K-3.

If districts choose to provide sexual health education, it must be consistent with requirements in the Healthy Youth Act.

New Requirements

Beginning in the 2022-23 school year, schools must provide social emotional learning (SEL) to students in grades K-3. SEL provides skills to do things like cope with feelings, set goals, and get along with others. No sexuality content or curriculum. will be required.

What is currently required?

The only instruction currently required is HIV/STD prevention, which must start no later than 5th grade and be provided annually through 12th grade. If districts choose to provide additional sexual health education, it must be consistent with requirements in the Healthy Youth Act.

New Requirements

Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, If schools are already providing sexual health education they must ensure that students get age-appropriate instruction on affirmative consent and bystander training.

Affirmative consent is an approach to giving and receiving consent that includes clear, voluntary, enthusiastic permission to engage in any activity. It is not just the absence of “no.” In 4th or 5th grade it might focus on hugs or horseplay, hand-holding or other touch, as well as virtual contact such as texts or emails or taking photos. Bystander training teaches students how to safely intervene when they see bullying, sexual harassment or unwanted sexual activity. They are included in this legislation as a way for schools to combat the high rates of unwanted sexual contact experienced by youth in our state. 

Beginning in the 2022-23 school year, schools must start providing sexual health education no later than 5th grade. Instruction must be consistent with Health Education K-12 Learning Standards. Grade-level outcomes are provided as examples only and do not represent a required course of instruction.

Required topics of instruction are described in ESSB 5395, with a focus on helping students understand and respect personal boundaries, develop healthy friendships, and gain a basic understanding of human growth and development. Currently required HIV/STD prevention instruction will continue to be required.

For more information, see New Legislation: Senate Bill 5395.

What is currently required?

The only instruction currently required is HIV/STD prevention, which must start no later than 5th grade and be provided annually through 12th grade.

If districts choose to provide additional sexual health education, it must be consistent with requirements in the Healthy Youth Act. Additionally, according to RCW 28A.300.145, instruction must include "age-appropriate information about the legal elements of sexual [sex] offenses (under chapter 9A.44 RCW) where a minor is a victim and the consequences upon conviction."

New Requirements

Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, If schools are already providing sexual health education they must ensure that students get age-appropriate instruction on affirmative consent and bystander training.

Affirmative consent is an approach to giving and receiving consent that includes clear, voluntary, enthusiastic permission to engage in any activity. It is not just the absence of “no.” In 4th or 5th grade it might focus on hugs or horseplay, hand-holding or other touch, as well as virtual contact such as texts or emails or taking photos. Bystander training teaches students how to safely intervene when they see bullying, sexual harassment or unwanted sexual activity. They are included in this legislation as a way for schools to combat the high rates of unwanted sexual contact experienced by youth in our state. 

Beginning in the 2021-22 school year, schools must start providing sexual health education at least twice in grades 6-8. Ideally this would be a unit in at least two different grades, and there are many possible strategies for providing all required content. Best practice suggests providing instruction over time, building on earlier instruction. Instruction must be consistent with Health Education K-12 Learning Standards. Grade-level outcomes are provided as examples only and do not represent a required course of instruction.

Required topics of instruction are described in ESSB 5395, with a focus on helping students understand and respect personal boundaries, develop healthy friendships and dating relationships, gain a deeper understanding of human growth and development, and develop skills to support choosing healthy behaviors and reduce health risks, including understanding the influence of family and society on healthy sexual relationships. Currently required HIV/STD prevention instruction will continue to be required.

For more information, please see New Legislation: Senate Bill 5395

What is currently required?

The only instruction currently required is HIV/STD prevention, which must start no later than 5th grade and be provided annually through 12th grade.

If districts choose to provide additional sexual health education, it must be consistent with requirements in the Healthy Youth Act. Additionally, according to RCW 28A.300.145, instruction must include "age-appropriate information about the legal elements of sexual [sex] offenses (under chapter 9A.44 RCW) where a minor is a victim and the consequences upon conviction."

New Requirements

Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, If schools are already providing sexual health education they must ensure that students get age-appropriate instruction on affirmative consent and bystander training.

Affirmative consent is an approach to giving and receiving consent that includes clear, voluntary, enthusiastic permission to engage in any activity. It is not just the absence of “no.” In 4th or 5th grade it might focus on hugs or horseplay, hand-holding or other touch, as well as virtual contact such as texts or emails or taking photos. Bystander training teaches students how to safely intervene when they see bullying, sexual harassment or unwanted sexual activity. They are included in this legislation as a way for schools to combat the high rates of unwanted sexual contact experienced by youth in our state. 

Beginning in the 2021-22 school year, schools must start providing sexual health education at least twice in grades 6-8. Ideally this would be a unit in at least two different grades, and there are many possible strategies for providing all required content. Best practice suggests providing instruction over time, building on earlier instruction. Instruction must be consistent with Health Education K-12 Learning Standards. Grade-level outcomes are provided as examples only and do not represent a required course of instruction.

Required topics of instruction are described in ESSB 5395, with a focus on helping students understand and respect personal boundaries, develop healthy friendships and dating relationships, gain a deeper understanding of human growth and development, and develop skills to support choosing healthy behaviors and reduce health risks, including how to access valid health care and prevention resources and understanding the influence of family and society on healthy sexual relationships. Currently required HIV/STD prevention instruction will continue to be required.

For more information, please see New Legislation: Senate Bill 5395

Instructional Materials Review Reports and Tools

In partnership with the Department of Health, OSPI conducts regular reviews of curricula and other materials to support districts in meeting state requirements for the delivery of sexual health education (RCW 28A.300.475).

Erin’s Law (Sexual Abuse Prevention)

SHB 1539 (Erin’s Law), passed by the WA legislature in 2018, addressed sexual abuse prevention in Washington state schools. The bill did not require schools to provide sexual abuse prevention instruction. OSPI and the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) were tasked with reviewing curricula and developing  recommendations for the school-based sexual abuse prevention in grades K-12.

Tags: 
Sex Ed