New Washington State DEI Bill Requires LGBTQ+ History Be Taught Across Entire School System

“Histories, contributions, and perspectives” of marginalized communities will soon be implemented in the curriculum in K-12 schools in Washington.

Haley Kennington

MAR 25, 2024

A new bill in Washington state was just signed into law by Democratic Governor Jay Inslee requiring LGBTQ+ history to be taught across the entire K-12 public school system. Proponents of the bill argue that students perform better when they feel safer and more represented in the classroom. Opponents of the bill argue that the emphasis is being redirected from academic matters to gender ideology.

Introduced in January, Senate Bill 5462 was sponsored by Democrat Senator Marko Liias, and supported by Democrat Senators Claire Wilson, Patty Kuderer, Liz Lovelett, Joe Nguyen, Jamie Pedersen, Emily Randall, Rebecca Saldaña, and Javier Valdez

Sen. Liias stated in a March 18th news release that the bill allows students to “see themselves in their schoolwork” which he says leads to “better attendance, better academic achievement and better overall quality of life, ensuring, success for all our students.”

The bill sets out to ensure“diverse, equitable, inclusive, and age-appropriate” instructional materials will be in every public school and should include “histories, contributions, and perspectives” of not only the LGBTQ+ community but “historically marginalized and underrepresented groups.”

According to the bill, these groups include:

  • Native Americans and Native American tribes 
  • People from various racial and ethnic backgrounds including, but not limited to, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islander Americans
  • Women
  • People from various socioeconomic statuses
  • People from various religious backgrounds
  • Immigrants and refugees
  • People with disabilities
  • People who are neurodiverse
  • People who are English learners or use sign language
  • LGBTQ people as defined in RCW 43.114.010.

The bill states: “Under state rule, the instructional materials policy of each school district must establish and use appropriate screening criteria to identify and eliminate bias pertaining to protected classes.” 

Section 3(g) directs each school district’s board of directors to “evaluate teaching materials, including textbooks, teaching aids, handouts, or other printed material, in a public hearing upon complaint by parents, guardians or custodians of students who consider dissemination of such material to students objectionable,” admitting they’re aware this will not be popular with the community as a whole. 

They also choose a delegate who is responsible for creating reading lists and specifying the procedures to be followed in the selection of all instructional materials including textbooks. This delegate must also “provide a system for receiving, considering, and acting upon written complaints regarding instructional materials used by the school district.” 

According to The Center Square, Gabriel Jacobs, a concerned citizen pushed back on the bill during a February hearing saying: “You may not be aware that members of the [Washington State] LGBTQ Commission are advocates for legalizing sex work and this bill requires them to collaborate with OSPI to set histories, perspectives, etc. We should not be writing legislation that mandates that those who advocate for legalized sex work consult with OSPI on kindergarten education criteria.”

Youth Advisory Councils Must Be Established

SB 5462 further requires each district to designate a “regional inclusive curricula coordinator” who along with ensuring DEI material is “interwoven throughout curricula and not treated as stand-alone topics,” must also report to the Instructional Materials Committee, the Washington State Office Of Equity, and establish a “Regional Youth Advisory Council for inclusive curricula and equity.” 

The youth-led advisory council is made up of at least one student representative from each school district chosen by application, interview, or recommendation who “must distribute an annual survey to students to assess student access to inclusive instructional materials.”

Of course, the students on the advisory council must have diverse backgrounds. This is stated to include backgrounds with “diversity as it relates to sex, race, religion, national origin, connection with the military, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, disability, socioeconomic status, and involvement in the community.”

The LGBTQ Commission is currently in the process of establishing an LGBTQ Youth Advisory Council where members will be paid a stipend, and serve for two years. It’s interesting they’re taking applications to “youth” ages 13-25 considering one is considered an adult in the state of Washington at age 18.

In addition, the Commission is offering to host “application parties” in collaboration with organizations in the area for the LGBTQ Youth Advisory Council throughout the state. 

What Constitutes LGBTQ+ History and How Is This Decided?

Each school district board of directors will be responsible for finding this curriculum and ensuring it meets the standards the bill lays out. The aforementioned Instructional Materials Committee is comprised of staff members from each district, the “Regional Inclusive Curricula Coordinator,” and can include parents provided they make up less than half of the total committee memberships. Approval or disapproval of the curricula is done by individual school district’s board of directors. The bill allows districts to “experiment” with instructional materials before fully adopting them into classrooms.

By December 1st, 2024 each school’s superintendent along with the Washington State LGBTQ Commission must incorporate the “histories, contributions, and perspectives of LGBTQ people” at all grade levels.

Considering barely 50% of students are meeting ELA standards, followed by an even more embarrassing 39.1% meeting math standards and 42.9% meeting science standards, perhaps the focus should not be so much on ensuring students feel “represented” but on the standards of basic curricula in schools. 

Gays Against Groomers Washington chapter legislative director Alex Chrostowski explains how this bill will hurt students in the state and why it’s insulting to those in the LGBTQ community:

“The LGBTQ books that they put in school are not innocent. They’re not just stories that include a gay person, or a lesbian person, or bi person, or trans person. No, they go into explicit details. They introduce very advanced, complicated concepts to children at very early ages that they don’t need. You don’t need to be introducing the idea of trans as a concept at all to anyone, to any student in school, you don’t need to introduce that concept. You certainly don’t need to do it before middle school.

“And you also don’t need to put books with explicit sexual material in school and somehow conflate graphic sexual encounters with what it means to be LGBT. That is insulting to me. I connect with nothing in the book Flamer. Talking about children having sex at 12 years old? That doesn’t relate to me. I don’t connect with that as a gay person. That goes against my values. Me being gay does not translate to “I have promiscuous sex and everything is oversexualized.”

Chrostowski continues explaining how SB 5462 will make it more difficult for parents to remove this kind of explicit material from classrooms across the state: “Graphic sexual content is graphic sexual content. It does not belong in schools. SB 5462 makes it easier for the state to crack down on parents and school districts who have successfully removed this material. Why? Because, you bigot, if you object you have a bias toward a protected class of people. That’s what the bill says.

As for why the bill is detrimental to Washington state and parents of students, Chrostowski says the bill is “essentially the centralization of power in Washington’s educational system.” Chrostowski asserts that despite remaining pockets of local control over curriculum, the enactment of SB 5462 eliminates such autonomy, transferring it to the state. Under this law, any dissenting views regarding the newly introduced material, regardless of their validity, are automatically dismissed as biased.

Executive Director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, Brian Noble told KOMO NEWS, “I have no problem with us informing about cultures about different areas like that, but when it comes to our sexual behavior, those histories and what we’re heightening as acceptable, and as normal, I do believe the conversation should happen between the child and their parent or parents.”

Noble continued, “I think that we should pump the brakes. The fact is we just need to get back to reading, writing, and arithmetic.” 

It’s important to note that SB 5462 comes on the heels of Initiative 2081, essentially established as a parent’s bill of rights. Initiative 2081 states that parents and legal guardians of public school children under the age of 18 have the right to “examine the textbooks, curriculum, and supplemental material used in their child’s classroom.”

Included in the initiative is that parents are to “receive written notice and the option to opt their children out of any surveys, assignments, questionnaires, role-playing activities, recordings of their child, or other student engagements that include the child’s sexual experiences or attractions.” Additionally, it states they must receive written notice with the option to opt their children out of “instructions on topics associated with sexual activity.” 

Notice according to the Washington State Legislature RCW 28A.300.475, sexual education is required to be taught to students at least once between kindergarten and grade three, once between grades four and five, twice to students between grades six and eight, and twice for students between grades nine and twelve.

This opt-out notice must be sought out by parents or guardians for Washington state students to avoid instruction, programs, or activities that include AIDS prevention, sexual health education, and sexual behaviors and attitudes, among other options listed on the form that must be updated and submitted to the principal each school year to be honored. 

It will be interesting to see how the implementation of SB 5462 with the already established rules of Initiative 2081 will clash. 

The new law will go into effect June 6th, 2024, with the new curriculum being implemented in schools beginning at the start of the 2025-2026 school year.