Cutoff day in Olympia: four bills that made it through and what that means for students

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Washington State Capitol Building

In Olympia, the most important early date in the legislative session calendar is something called “cutoff day” – the last possible day for a bill to pass out of its house of origin (with some exceptions). And while no bill is ever completely dead until session ends because of complicated reasons having to do with the state budget, cutoff day nonetheless is an important milestone during session.

I have been closely tracking many education-related bills during the 2021 legislative session, which started in January . That work has included meetings with 106 different state legislators to share feedback on these bills and issues related to them. 

Below are four education-related bills I have advocated for in Olympia. They are not necessarily the most ambitious or talked about, but each focuses on a topic of great interest and importance to students around Washington. Although much work remains, each bill below has passed out its respective committee and thus remain alive and viable for passage.

HB 1356 Prohibiting the inappropriate use of Native American names, symbols, or images as public school mascots, logos, or team names

In conversations I have had with indigenous youth, support for this legislation has been overwhelming. They noted how the use of caricatured indigenous history often made them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in their own schools. They believe passing this bill would ensure that historically marginalized groups receive proper respect and that schools avoid cultural appropriation. Those who support the bill include the Legislative Youth Advisory Council, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and the State Board of Education.

For students I have spoken with, mental health has been far and away the top priority. 
Kellen Hoard, Inglemoor High School

HB 1373 Promoting student access to information about behavioral health resources

For students I have spoken with, mental health has been far and away the top priority.  So many children and young adults are either struggling personally or has a friend or family member who is. House Bill 1373, written by students (including myself) works to help address this crisis. The legislation requires that school websites contain contact information for certain types of behavioral health support organizations right on the home page.  By making these resources more accessible to students, the hope is that students will be able to receive the support they need. Those who support the bill include the Washington State School Directors’ Association, Washington State PTA, Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention, the Associated Students of the University of Washington-Seattle, and the Legislative Youth Advisory Council.

SB 5242 Supporting media literacy and digital citizenship

Senate Bill 5242 works to fill a gap in many students’ education: media literacy and digital citizenship. Many students receive little or no instruction on those subjects, but as the world becomes increasingly online and at times highly combative, it is ever more essential that they do. This particular bill requires OSPI to distribute grants to various district leadership teams in order to develop curriculum surrounding those two topics. It then convenes those teams from around the state to collaborate and identify best practices for implementation. Working to ensure students are prepared to be critical thinkers and good citizens online is something that Facebook or Twitter users can appreciate. Those who support the bill include OSPI, the Washington Library Association, Teachers for an Informed Public, the Washington Education Association, and the Legislative Youth Advisory Council.  

SB 5044 Concerning professional learning, equity, cultural competency, and dismantling institutional racism in the public school system

This bill adds equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism training as part of professional learning for school staff, district staff, and school board directors. Increased cultural competency in schools is one of the top priorities of students around Washington, and 5044 is a great step in that direction. By training everyone from classified staff to principals to teachers to the school board, the legislation will foster a welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds. Those who support the bill include the Washington State School Directors’ Association, the Washington Education Association, the Professional Educator Standards Board, the Washington PTA, OSPI, the Puget Sound Educational Service District, the Legislative Youth Advisory Council, and the Washington Coalition for Gifted Children.  

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Kellen Hoard is a student at Inglemoore High School in Kenmore, Washington and EEN’s student intern for SY 2020-21.