Affirming Access to Comprehensive Sex Ed for All Ages

Oct 18, 2020 | Children and Youth, News, Our Whole Lives, Parent Resources

You most likely have received your ballots at the time of reading this brief. Please notice Referendum 90, which will decide whether Senate Bill 5395 — colloquially known as Washington’s sex-education bill — will be enacted into law.

At East Shore, we support SB 5395 and ask that you vote YES on Referendum 90. SB 5395 was passed by the state Legislature earlier this year. Approving the referendum would enact the law, which, in short, requires all school districts in the state to teach “comprehensive age appropriate sexual health education” by the 2022-2023 school year.

We’re fortunate to be in a faith community that has for decades provided comprehensive age appropriate sexual health education to our congregation and the larger community, and we know that not all children, or adults, have access to the empowering information and safe conversations they need to navigate life in a sexual body. By supporting SB 5395, which again has already been approved over years of careful and diligent work from Washington State Legislature, more children, youth, and adults will have access to this much needed and valued information.

We can use OWL to understand the potential of what we mean when we say comprehensive age appropriate sexual health education. The Unitarian Universalist Association created “About Your Sexuality,” in 1971. AYS, as it was called, responded to what was going on in popular culture and made it clear for the UUA how important it was to offer a values based education about sexuality to our community. AYS lasted for many, many years, and East Shore used this curriculum. In 1993, the United Church of Christ wanted to team up with UUA to develop a curriculum. Using the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education developed by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, the two denominations developed a research-based program that aligned with the values of both faiths: Our Whole Lives. This curriculum continues to be co-developed and improved, with new editions and volumes being released this year and last. This year conversations have centered around the pandemic, affirming OWL values at home, OWL and multiculturalism, and decentering whiteness in OWL and our UUA educational material.

OWL affirms the self-worth of each of us, and is a welcoming sex education program, discussing gender and sexuality in ways that encourage self-discovery, allyship, and coming-out. OWL focuses on the importance of sexual health, and healthy, safe relationships. Its’ lifespan scope encompasses kindergarten through older adult. OWL includes relationships and personal skills in addition to sexual health and behavior. OWL addresses decision-making, clarifies values, builds interpersonal skills, and deepens understanding of spiritual, emotional, and societal aspects of sexuality, which can influence the decisions we make. Its “three Rs” are Responsibility, Respect, and Relationships, and OWL discusses how they all inform one another to empower each other and ourselves.

While all of our OWL programs are on hold during the pandemic, our faith and congregation certainly continue to affirm OWL values, ethics, and practices. By offering resources in your home through developmentally appropriate reading and viewing material, as well as directly in supportive, safe, and loving conversation, parents and caregivers are able to continue providing some of what OWL hopes to provide in the home.

Have questions? We’d love to hear what’s coming up in your homes with regards to OWL related content. We’re happy to help partner with you on this journey! Each of us with bodies, minds, and hearts are sacred, and we deserve to have the support we need to help navigate and understand that. Remember, our whole lives we are on a journey of learning and discovery, so let’s equip ourselves to live out our values and treat each other with deep kindness.

Learn more about OWL here:

Learn more about Referendum 90 and SB 5395 here:

Are you interested in joining a group of parents and caregivers next year (2021) to work through the OWL curricula “Parents as Sexuality Educators”? Write to Amanda Uluhan to get a sign up going.  [email protected]

Written by Amanda Uluhan, Director of Religious Education