Local efforts to repeal Washington’s new comprehensive sex education law that requires sex education in all Washington public schools, starting in kindergarten, by the 2022-2023 school year, are ramping up with less than a month left to obtain the necessary signatures to give Washingtonians the opportunity to vote on it in November.
The local rallying cry for signatures is led by Lewis County resident Kelsi Hamilton, who is working in coordination with Parents For Safe Schools, a group of citizens and parents who oppose the law.
“I’m just a parent that agrees this bill is complete overreach and I’m just trying to get signatures for it,” Hamilton said.
So far she, with help from other concerned parents, has collected about 400 signatures in the Lewis County and South Thurston County area to add to the 73,000 signatures the group has gathered in total as of the middle of last week.
According to Parents For Safe Schools Community Chair Mindie Wirth, they need about 60,000 more signatures to reach the 129,811 signatures that will have to be submitted to the Secretary of the State’s Office by June 10.
The number of signatures required — 129,811 — is equal to 4 percent of the votes cast for the office of governor in the previous regular gubernatorial election, according to the Secretary of the State’s 2020 Initiative and Referenda Handbook.
If that is achieved, Referendum 90, which was submitted by Wirth to the Secretary of the State’s Office on March 13, will give Washington voters the opportunity to decide if the law stays or goes in November.
Hamilton said the group has had to be creative to get signatures while the coronavirus pandemic keeps most people within the confines of their house.
Their most recognizable endeavors have come in the form of pop-up drive-through events where the group looks to catch the eyes of drivers who also share the same concerns about the sex education law.
They have had events at the Fairway Shopping Center, Grace Baptist Church, Mountain View Baptist Church, Bethel Church, a parking lot on Market Boulevard and on Thursday they were in Rochester off of Highway 12 looking to get signatures.
They’ve also been active on social media, calling around to friends and family to see if they would be willing to put their signature on the petition and several local businesses have been willing to allow her to put petitions on their property.
Hamilton said the support she has seen from other Lewis County residents is about what she expected. She says there were a few teachers who have come by to the drive-through events and also voiced their opposition to the law.
Wirth, who has been following the number of signatures diligently, says she thinks there will be enough by June 10. She added that traditionally speaking, about 50 percent of a referendum’s signatures usually will come in the last two weeks.
However, Wirth also knows that these are not traditional times. But the fact that the group has already gotten 73,000 through their grassroots effort with no large events to attend, has her feeling optimistic that Washington voters will eventually have a say in the comprehensive sex education law.