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Controversial curriculum choices bill moves forward in WA Senate

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(The Center Square) – A bill in Olympia is moving ahead that would give the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction ultimate decision-making authority when it comes to controversial teachings on race, gender and sex education.

On Feb. 10, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2331 was passed by the House of Representatives.

On Monday, ESHB 2331 was passed out of executive session by the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education. It has been placed on second reading by the Rules Committee.

Minority Republicans on the committee sought to protect students from exposure to what they deemed harmful ideologies in the classroom.

Sen. Jim McCune, R-Graham, proposed an amendment.

“It prohibits school boards from approving the use of any textbook or instructional materials, supplemental instructional material or other material for student instruction if it contains erotic material, sexually explicit material or lewd material,” he explained.

A second amendment in support of the original bill was offered by Sen. T’wina Nobles, D-Lakewood.

Her amendment would remove the ability of a school district to appeal a decision by OSPI about instructional materials to its own board of directors. It would also render final decisions immune to appeals for a minimum of three years.

Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, who chairs the committee, urged a no vote on McCune’s amendment, but he asked for a chance to speak, which she granted.

“Pornography books have crept into our schools and school libraries,” McCune said. “This kind of printed visual material of dirty sexual talk and pictures of sexual activity [has] no place in our K-12 schools, and I’m very sad to see these books have no ratings on them.”

He went on to say, “They talk about rape, incest, sex organs, sex toys, and they talk about sex between couples.”

McCune then asked permission to read from one of the books in approved curriculum materials.

After hesitating, Wellman responded, “Well – yes.”

McCune then said he couldn’t read from them, because of the vulgar content.

“One of these books says, ‘eff you’ 128 times, and you wonder why kids are swearing,” he said. “This material is really crude.”

Wellman responded.

“Based on what I have heard, I’m surprised that for someone who has been so in favor of local control, you want to override local control and the process that is in place to review curriculum to determine if it falls into the category that you’ve said,” she said.

McCune asked to respond, but Wellman said there was no more time.

The committee did not pass McCune’s amendment but did pass Nobles’ amendment.

The issue of basic education curriculum and materials has been in the spotlight lately in the form of Initiative 2081 to the Legislature that would establish a parents’ bill of rights and access to any medical or health records for their child.

I-2081 is scheduled for a legislative public hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.