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AGO 1990 No. 1 - January 09, 1990
AGO Opinion Header Image
Ken Eikenberry | 1981-1992 | Attorney General of Washington

AIDS ‑- EDUCATION ‑- HEALTH ‑- SCHOOLS ‑- SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION

1.  RCW 28A.05.055 requires school districts to provide education on acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) at least once during each school year beginning with the 1988-89 school year.2.  If a school district elects to develop its own AIDS curricula, it need not complete the curricula prior to the beginning of the school year, so long as it is developed in time to provide AIDS education at least once during the school year.

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                                                                  January 9, 1990

Honorable Mike Padden
State Representative
Fourth District
425 House Office Building
Olympia, WA 98504                                                                                                                   Cite as:  AGO 1990 No. 1

Dear Representative Padden:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested an opinion on the following question:

            Under the provisions of the 1988 AIDS Omnibus Bill, are school districts required to complete their AIDS curricula prior to the 1989-90 school year, or may they complete such curricula within a reasonable period subsequent to the beginning of the 1989-90 school year in order to comply with specific mandates contained in the Bill regarding content and the consultation and participation of teachers, administrators, parents, community members and others in the preparation of the curricula?

            We answer your question in the manner set forth below.

                                                                BACKGROUND

            We begin by reviewing the statutes in question.  In 1988 the Legislature, responding to the increasing dangers posed by the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] spread of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), passed what is commonly known as the AIDS Omnibus Bill.1/

             This is a comprehensive act which addresses many areas of concern with regard to AIDS, including AIDS education beginning in fifth grade and continuing in colleges and universities, AIDS training for employees, AIDS counseling and testing, and regional AIDS service networks.2/

             The Act was signed by the Governor on March 23, 1988; most of its provisions took effect the following day, pursuant to an emergency clause.3/

             Of particular concern to your inquiry is Part IV of the Omnibus Bill, which specifically addresses "AIDS Education in the Common Schools".  We now turn to that section.

            The Legislature has acknowledged the paramount importance of education as a means of combatting the spread of AIDS.  It has expressly found that "the public schools provide a unique and appropriate setting for educating young people about the pathology and prevention of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)."4/

             Accordingly, the Legislature enacted the following mandate:

                 The life‑threatening dangers of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and its prevention shall be taught in the public schools of this state. . . .  Students shall receive such education at least once each school year beginning no later than the fifth grade.5/

             This directive became effective July 1, 19886/ and was not  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] subject to the emergency clause that made other portions of the Act effective on March 24, 1988.

            Each school district board of directors is required to adopt an AIDS prevention education program in consultation with teachers, administrators, parents, and other community members, including persons from medical, public health, and mental health organizations.  In developing its curricula, the district may use either (1) the model curricula and resources which are made available to school districts by the state Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI), or (2) curricula and materials developed by the school district itself.7/

            In the latter event, the district must have its curricula approved for medical accuracy by the state office on AIDS.8/

             It may, however, implement its AIDS education program pending such approval by submitting an affidavit stating that it has compared the district-developed curricula with the SPI model curricula, and believes the district's curricula to be medically accurate.9/

             Whether the district uses the SPI model curricula or its own curricula, it must conduct at least one presentation for parents and guardians of students prior to teaching AIDS prevention in any classroom.  No student may be required to participate if his or her parent or guardian attends the presentation and objects in writing to such participation.10/

            AIDS prevention education is to be limited to the discussion of the life‑threatening dangers of the disease, its spread, and its prevention.11/

            Students are to be taught which behaviors place a person dangerously at risk of infection with the AIDS virus and the methods to avoid such risk.  Both the dangers of drug abuse (especially that involving the use of hypodermic needles) and the dangers of sexual intercourse (with or without condoms) must be taught.12/

            AIDS prevention education must stress that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] means for the prevention of the spread or contraction of the AIDS virus through sexual contact.  Such education must also teach that condoms and other artificial means of birth control are not a certain means of preventing the spread of the AIDS virus.13/

            Both the model curricula and district-developed curricula must conform to these guidelines.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            With this statutory background in mind, we turn to your question:  Whether school districts are required to complete their AIDS curricula prior to the 1989-90 school year, or whether they may complete such curricula within a reasonable period subsequent to the beginning of the 1989-90 school year.  In our opinion, school districts need not complete their AIDS curriculaprior to the beginning of a given school year.  The AIDS curricula may be developed subsequent to the beginning of the school year.  However, school districts do not have an unlimited time to complete this task.  The curricula must be completed and taught before the end of the school year.  Furthermore, in light of the clear language of the statute, as well as the statute's overall purposes, we believe that the Legislature intended for school districts to implement AIDS education‑-both developing curricula and teaching it‑-once each year commencing with the 1988-89 school year.

            Our conclusion stems from application of well-established rules of statutory construction.  First, words in the statute are to be given their plain and ordinary meaning unless a contrary intent appears, and where such language is clear, it must be respected.  Federated American Ins. Co. v. Marquardt, 108 Wn.2d 651, 658, 741 P.2d 18 (1987);Griffin v. Department of Social & Health Servs., 91 Wn.2d 616, 624, 590 P.2d 816 (1979).  Second, it is not proper to read additional language into the statute that the Legislature has omitted.  Automobile Drivers & Demonstrators Union Local No. 882 v. Department of Retirement Sys., 92 Wn.2d 415, 421, 598 P.2d 379 (1979).  Finally, the statute must be read as a whole, and its language construed in light of the statute's overall object and purpose.  Eastlake Comm'ty Coun. v. Roanoke Ass'n, Inc., 82 Wn.2d 475, 490, 513 P.2d 36 (1973);Wilson v. Lund, 74 Wn.2d 945, 947, 447 P.2d 718 (1968).

            Applying these principles to the AIDS Omnibus Bill, several points are apparent.  The Legislature has unequivocally mandated that AIDS education "shall be taught in the public schools of  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] this state", and that students "shall receive such education at least once each school year beginning no later than the fifth grade."  RCW 28A.05.055(1).  (Emphasis added.)  The Legislature furthermore expressly provided that this directive take effect July 1, 1988.  The logical implication from the plain language of the directive, together with its effective date, is that the Legislature intended AIDS education to be taught at least once in each school year subsequent to July 1, 1988‑-that is, commencing with the 1988-89 school year.  The Legislature has nowhere indicated that AIDS education may be further delayed beyond the end of the 1988-89 school year.  To interpret the statute in this manner would require us to read language into the statute that the Legislature has omitted, something we are forbidden to do.  Automobile Drivers,supra.

            The varying effective dates in the AIDS Omnibus Bill give further support to the mandatory nature of the command in RCW 28A.05.055(1) that students "shall receive [AIDS] education at least once each school year."  In general, the AIDS Omnibus Bill went into operation on March 24, 1988, pursuant to an emergency clause.14/

            However, the educational requirement in RCW 28A.05.055(1) did not go into operation until July 1, 1988.15/

            This change in effective dates is significant.  If RCW 28A.05.055(1) is not a mandatory command, there would have been no reason to postpone the effective date of the educational requirement until July 1, 1988. However, the postponement is logical‑-even necessary‑-if, as we believe, RCW 28A.05.055(1) imposed a mandatory requirement.

            As we pointed out in our background discussion, the AIDS curricula must be developed in consultation with teachers, parents and others; it must be approved for medical accuracy; and it must be presented at least once to parents and guardians of students.  This process takes time and would have been difficult to complete between March 24, 1988 and the end of the 1987-88 school year.  The Legislature presumably took this into account and delayed implementation of the requirement until July 1, 1988.  This effectively postponed the educational requirement until the 1988-89 school year.  We can give meaning to the provision delaying implementation of the educational requirement only if we construe it as a mandatory command.  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            We do not minimize the extent and significance of the task faced by school districts that choose to implement their own AIDS curricula.  However, in our view the Legislature recognized this problem.  That is why the Legislature delayed the effective date of the educational requirement until July 1, 1988.  This gave school districts fourteen to fifteen months to comply with the educational requirement‑-from March 23, 1988 when the Governor signed the AIDS Omnibus Bill until the end of the 1988-89 school year in May or June of 1989.  We find no evidence that the Legislature intended any further delay beyond the end of the 1988-89 school year.16/

            To the contrary, our overall reading of the statute leads us to conclude that the Legislature views the rising spread of not only AIDS, but of all sexually transmitted diseases, as a health threat of increasing gravity and urgency requiring immediate action.  In a related portion of the AIDS Omnibus Bill, we note the following legislative findings:

                 The legislature declares that sexually transmitted diseases constitute a serious and sometimes fatal threat to the public and individual health and welfare of the people of the state.  The legislature finds that the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases is rising at an alarming rate and that these diseases result in significant social, health, and economic costs, including infant and maternal mortality, temporary and lifelong disability, and premature death.17/

             The Legislature reinforced this statement of urgency by enacting the AIDS Omnibus Bill as an emergency measure, with most of its  [[Orig. Op. Page 7]] provisions taking effect immediately.18/

            The Legislature clearly intended to take swift and sweeping action to combat the spread of AIDS in this state.  We believe any undue delay in implementing AIDS education would be inconsistent with this overall purpose.

            In summary, in view of the Legislature's clear findings regarding the gravity of the growing AIDS crisis, the mandate that AIDS education be taught at least once each school year, and the express provision setting July 1, 1988 as the effective date of that mandate, we conclude the Legislature intended for school districts to develop curricula and teach AIDS education at least once each school year, commencing with the 1988-89 school year.  Thus, this educational requirement necessarily applies to the 1989-90 school year.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

KENNETH O. EIKENBERRY
Attorney General

GREGORY J. TRAUTMAN
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Laws of 1988, ch. 206.

2/Due to the comprehensive nature of the law, the AIDS Omnibus Bill is not codified in a single title or chapter of the Revised Code of Washington.  A number of provisions of the Act are codified in chapter 70.24 RCW.  The primary educational provisions involved in your question are codified as RCW 28A.05.055.  For ease of reference, we will cite to the Revised Code of Washington.  However, for purposes of our analysis, we have considered the AIDS Omnibus Bill as a whole.

3/Laws of 1988, ch. 206, § 1002.

4/RCW 70.24.220.

5/RCW 28A.05.055(1).

6/Laws of 1988, ch. 206, § 404.

7/RCW 28A.05.055(2).

8/The office on AIDS is a new office created within the State Department of Health.  RCW 70.24.250.

9/RCW 28A.05.055(2).

10/RCW 28A.05.055(4).

11/RCW 28A.05.055(1).

12/RCW 28A.05.055(6).

13/RCW 28A.05.055(7) and RCW 74.24.210.

14/Laws of 1988, ch. 206, § 1002.

15/Laws of 1988, ch. 206, § 404.

16/In fact, the Legislature has taken one measure specifically designed to expedite the implementation of AIDS education.  We refer to the provision of the AIDS Omnibus Bill that allows a school district to immediately use district-developed AIDS curricula in the public schools, pending ultimate approval of the curricula by the state office on AIDS, provided the district submits an affidavit of medical accuracy to the office on AIDS.  RCW 28A.05.055(2).

17/RCW 70.24.015.  See also RCW 28A.05.010 (requiring all of the common schools to give instruction in "methods to prevent exposure to and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases").

18/As we previously noted, the Legislature delayed the effective date of the educational requirement to allow school districts time to develop AIDS curricula and present it to parents and guardians required by RCW 28A.05.055(2).

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