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While Measure 90 will impact few schools, it should be approved

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If voters approve Measure 90 it will — as described on the ballot — “require school districts to adopt or develop, consistent with state standards, comprehensive age-appropriate sexual health education, as defined, for all students, and excuse students if their parents request.”

So, what would that mean for those who have children in Walla Walla Public Schools?

Nothing. The school district here already has sexual health education incorporated into its curriculum that meets the state requirements in Measure 90.

So, too, does the Prescott School District, for example. College Place has a sex education curriculum developed internally, so it is unclear if it is consistent with state requirements.

It seems that this is similar to the situation around the state. Most school districts are already in compliance with mandates of Measure 90, which was approved by the state Legislature this spring along party lines. Democrats were in favor, Republicans opposed.

The reason the legislation was proposed by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction was so that the few districts that did not have sexual health education would have it available for its students.

In theory, we agree. And it does seem that this legislation, which has become Measure 90 so the people can vote on it, is reasonable.

Yet, the way in which it was handled in the legislative process has made this issue more about politics than public policy.

From a political perspective, this always sensitive and often controversial topic was not handled in an artful way.

Nevertheless, the approved legislation does call for age appropriate lessons starting with social-emotional learning in the younger grades and then focus on relationships, health risks and moving to things such as violence and avoiding exploitative relationships.

Parents do have the option to review all material that will be presented to their children. Parents are free — as is made clear in the wording on the ballot — to have their children excused from these lessons.

Measure 90 should not be as controversial as it is. The majority of families in Washington state with school-age children will notice little or no difference in their local sexual health education programs. That is certainly the case in Walla Walla.

Still, it should be available for those families who do not now have the opportunity to have their children take appropriate sexual education classes.

After all, this is more than talking just about sexual functions. It includes looking at healthy relationships, emotional well-being and the importance of avoiding exploitation and violence.

We recommend Measure 90 be approved.