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Health Education

Sexual Health Education

SPS Sexual Health Education

“Sexual health education is a critical component of comprehensive health education that helps students develop knowledge and skills needed to become successful learners and healthy and productive adults.” WA Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)

The Washington Legislature found that “young people should have the knowledge and skills necessary to build healthy relationships, and to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection.

The primary responsibility for sexual health education is with parents and guardians. However, this responsibility also extends to schools and other community groups. It is in the public’s best interest to ensure that young people are equipped with medically and scientifically accurate, age-appropriate information that will help them avoid unintended pregnancies, remain free of sexually transmitted diseases, and make informed, responsible decisions throughout their lives.”

Parents/guardians may preview sexual health materials and may opt their student out of specific topics by contacting the classroom teacher.

Seattle Public Schools supports sexual health education that:

  • Builds positive attitudes and skills needed to reduce rates of pregnancy, STDs and sexual violence
  • Encourages family communication
  • Respects diverse community values

Sexual Health Education prepares students to:

  • Understand the changes that happen during puberty
  • Abstain from sex
  • Use condoms and birth control when they do have sex
  • Build skills to have healthy relationships
  • Ask for consent to engage in sexual activity and respect the boundaries of their partner
  • Communicate with their family about sexual health and dating
  • Make decisions that minimize risk to their sexual health
  • Seek medical care in order to take care of their reproductive health
  • Intervene or support when someone is being harmed
  • Know how to access community resources

New Washington State Law on Comprehensive Sexual Health Education

The WA Comprehensive Sexual Health Education (CSHE) Law (RCW 28A.300.475) passed by the Legislature and Washington voters in 2020 requires all public schools to provide comprehensive sexual health education by the 2022–23 school year. The curriculum, instruction, and materials must be medically and scientifically accurate, age-appropriate, and inclusive of all students.

The new state law does not require major changes to what is already being taught in Seattle Public Schools. There are some parts of the law that will shift what or when content is taught. This includes an emphasis on social emotional learning, sexual abuse prevention, affirmative consent education, and bystander training. Affirmative consent is the clear, voluntary, and informed indication that, through words or actions, a person is giving permission for a specific activity. While the law defines affirmative consent in relation to sexual activity, consent applies to many types of situations and interpersonal interactions. Our instruction will be age-appropriate and relevant.

SPS will teach sexual health education in accordance with the law, and aligned to Washington State Health Education standards. SPS will keep the community updated as changes are made. As always, parents and guardians have the opportunity to review the curriculum and opt their child out of certain content areas if they choose.

Lessons Taught in Seattle Public Schools

In grades 4 and 5, we use the WA OSPI approved and board-adopted FLASH curriculum and supplemental materials created by Seattle Public Schools in partnership with Harborview Abuse & Trauma Center of UW Medicine. Middle school students receive sexual health education (FLASH and supplemental materials) in science classes in grades, 6, 7, and 8.

In alignment with School Board Action, which states that health education classes required for graduation shall be offered at 9th grade, high school students receive a semester of health class, covering a range of health content reflected in the Washington State Health Education Standards. These standards include content related to Wellness, Safety, Nutrition, Sexual Health, Social-Emotional Health, and Substance Use and Abuse.

Changes to Elementary Sexual Health Education

  • This school year (2021-2022), schools have the option to begin teaching sexual health education in 4th grade.
  • Next school year (2022-2023), all schools will provide sexual health education in 4th grade.  
  • Sexual health education will continue to be taught in 5th grade as it has been for decades.

Parent/Guardian Preview

Parents and guardians are invited to watch the following video overview of Sexual Health Education in Seattle Public Schools.

Videos

Lessons

We invite parents and guardians to preview lesson materials by grade level posted below.

  1. Introduction
  2. Self-Esteem
  3. Decision Making
  4. Gender Roles
  5. Being a Good Listener
  6. Consent
  7. Puberty
  8. Reproductive System
  9. Pregnancy
  10. HIV/AIDS
  • Introduction
  • Reproductive System
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
  • Gender Stereotypes
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Coercion and Consent
  • Online Safety
  • Abstinence
  • Birth Control Methods
  • HIV and Other STDs
  • Condoms
  • Testing for HIV and Other STDs
  • Communication and Decision Making
  • Improving School Health

FLASH Curriculum Public Preview Site

Many students who receive special education services participate in sexual health education lessons in general education classes. Teachers adapt the materials listed above to meet students’ individual needs. Some special education teachers use the FLASH Special Education curriculum.

Waiver

After reviewing materials, parents/guardians may opt their student out of lessons by submitting a waiver form to their child’s teacher. Sexual Health Education – Student Waiver Form.

Talking to Your Kids about Sexual Health

Video  
Talking to Your Kids About Sexual Health Live Event Recording from May 25, 2021.

This 30 minute video covers simple tips for talking about topics like gender, puberty, and consent in ways that are developmentally appropriate and true to your family’s values.

Below are tips for caregivers. 

During childhood, your words and actions have taught your children about bodies, relationships and emotions. You have a powerful influence on their understanding of themselves and the basic concepts of sexual health. Topics like development or sexual behavior are important too, but if they feel scary to discuss it’s OK to go slow. It can be helpful to consider what messages you already send about sexual health topics and what messages you’d like to send, then practice what you’d like to say! Think through topics like body image, gender roles, dating, consent, etc.

Research shows that positive communication between parents/guardians and young people can lead to healthy decision making. You can set a positive tone by acknowledging the feelings you and your child have. Showing empathy for each other’s feelings can make talks a comfortable chance to bond.
Young people often send the message to their parents/guardians that they don’t want to talk about sexual health. That’s OK too. Keep trying and keep showing respect and a sense of humor when discussing these topics.

Start with factual, honest, short answers to your child’s questions. Young people are curious, just because they ask about a topic doesn’t mean they’re experiencing the issue themselves. Listen with respect and share your thoughts and values! Remember that you’re not obligated to share private information, extend that right to your child by respecting their privacy when possible too.

Take advantage of conversation starters such as books, movies, or news to have brief conversations about a variety of sexual health topics. Talking while driving, cooking, or walking can make talking easier. You might even try writing notes, texts, or emails to each other.

You’re not expected to be an expert. Admit when you don’t know and find the information together!

Identify other adults your young person can talk to if they don’t feel comfortable coming to you. Make a short list together of people who share your family’s values.

Questions for Caregivers and Children to Ask about Growing Up

Questions for Kids to Ask Caregivers

  • What do you look for in a friend?
  • What are some reasons you wouldn’t be friends with somebody?
  • Did you have crushes when you were my age?
  • Will you tell me how you felt and acted?
  • What changes do you remember at puberty?
  • Did your body grow and change at the same rate as your friends? How did this make you feel?
  • Who did you talk to about sex and growing up when you were my age?
  • Did you ever talk to your parents? What was it like?
  • What do you think is special about you? What do you like best about your body?
  • What I think is special about you is…

Questions for Caregivers to Ask Kids

  • Who are your best friends?
  • What are some reasons you wouldn’t be friends with someone?
  • What things help you feel more comfortable when talking with me about sex and growing up?
  • What other adults would you feel comfortable with talking about this if I weren’t available?
  • What is exciting about growing up?
  • What if anything is scary about growing up?
  • What do you think is special about you? What do you like the best about your body?
  • What I think is special about you is…
  • Do I do anything around you that embarrasses you?