Developed by Seattle & King County Public Health, the FLASH sex education high school curriculum is used by every district in the county. Photo courtesy King County

Developed by Seattle & King County Public Health, the FLASH sex education high school curriculum is used by every district in the county. Photo courtesy King County

King County wins sex ed funding case

Officials are “ecstatic” that the court blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to withhold research funds.

High fives were common in Seattle & King County Public Health’s Family Planning division this week. On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) illegally terminated a sex education grant King County was using to study the effectiveness of its FLASH curriculum.

Developed by Seattle & King County Public Health, FLASH has been the primary sex education program used by public schools in King County since it was developed here in the 1980s. Beyond all school districts in King County, the science-based program is used in 44 other states. While, anecdotally, King County program officials have had significant positive public feedback on the curriculum, the organization never had the opportunity to gather data to support their theories that FLASH reduces teen pregnancy and STD rates.

In 2015 that changed. As part of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPP), Seattle & King County Public Health was awarded a five-year $5 million grant to study FLASH’s effectiveness. But in 2017, HHS decided to cut King County’s funding two years early, along with the funding to 80 others who received TPP Program grants. Their funding was set to end on June 30.

In February, 10 of those organizations (including King County) filed four seperate lawsuits against the federal government claiming the early termination was illegal.

“We’ve invested three years of taxpayer dollars and resources,” said Heather Maisen, of the Seattle King County Family Planning program. “It would have been three years wasted and promises broken.”

The FLASH curriculum is currently being studied in 20 schools in Minnesota and Georgia. That data could then be used by school boards across the country to help members decide whether or not to use FLASH.

Tuesday’s ruling delivered the fourth and final victory for the organizations suing HHS. Favorable rulings for the other plaintiffs came down in April.

In his ruling issued Tuesday, Judge John Coughenour referenced the three other previous decisions noting that HHS has “attempted to convince multiple courts of their position with no success” while ruling in favor of King County.

“This ruling is such a relief,” said Patty Hayes, the director of Public Health for Seattle & King County. “Our goal with FLASH is to improve the quality of what happens in classrooms across the nation and to protect our most vulnerable youth.”

Judge Coughenour added in his ruling that “HHS failed to articulate a satisfactory explanation for its decision to shorten King County’s project period. In fact, HHS never gave King County an explanation.”

In an August news release, HHS suggested “73 percent [of TPP grantees] either had no impact or had a negative impact on teen behavior,” but provided no proof. HHS has yet to not respond to Seattle Weekly’s repeated requests for comment on the issue.

While Tuesday’s court ruling doesn’t force the federal government to hand over the remainder of King County’s grant, it makes it more difficult for HHS to withhold the money. To end the funding, HHS would have to show King County violated the terms of the grant agreement.

Maisen said she sees no reason the funding won’t come this year calling the victory a “huge hurdle,” but not the “final hurdle.”

This case was just one of the Trump administration’s attempts to remove money from evidence-based sex education programs. Since 2015, funding for sex-education programs that promote abstinence-only or “sexual-risk avoidance” curriculums has increased by $45 million. If HHS succeeds in moving $110 million Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program dollars to these programs—something they alluded to in April—that would more than double the increase.

Maisen knows there is a “long road forward,” but she says this latest legal victory proves King County is on the right path to help the people that FLASH is really all about—the kids. “Our youth in this country are now going to be given access to information that is critical to the outcome of their health and their future goals.”


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@redmond-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.redmond-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

The COVID-19 outbreak closed schools statewide last spring and has led to many school districts opting for remote learning in the fall. Pictured: A Decatur High School staff member takes cover from the rain while celebrating the graduating class of 2020 in June. File photo
Study: Virus cases must drop for state’s schools to safely reopen

Bringing students back in any capacity will lead to new infections, the report found.

Alki Beach. Photo by Alabastro Photography
Heat wave is on the way this weekend

Temperatures are expected to climb into the mid-90s on Sunday.

School lunch. File photo
School district distributes thousands of extra meals amid pandemic

Congress hasn’t renewed the program, which provided twice as many student meals for free last spring.

The Enumclaw Health and Rehabilitation Center, which is located by St. Elizabeth hospital, a senior living community, and a nursing home. File photo
Inslee lifts visitation ban at long-term care facilities

Starting Wednesday, a four-phase plan will allow restrictions at nursing homes to gradually be relaxed.

Screenshot from Gov. Jay Inslee’s press conference on Aug. 5, 2020.
Inslee says schools in virus hot spots should stay closed

King County among high-risk counties; several school districts will have remote learning in the fall.

King County Election headquarters in Renton on Aug. 4 for the primary election. Haley Ausbun/staff photo
Inslee and Culp lead governor race; incumbent Dems ahead for Congress | Statewide results

Early results for governor, state schools chief, attorney general and more.

Democrats dominate King County legislative races | Election results

Here are the latest results for King County legislative candidates in the… Continue reading

King County Election headquarters in Renton, on primary Election Day, Aug. 4. Voters can return their ballot and register in-person at the election headquarters and other voting centers by 8 p.m. Haley Ausbun/Staff photo.
Still time to vote in August primary

Turn in your ballot at any voting center by 8 p.m.

Inslee mask graphic
Free mask event for King County residents, Aug. 4 in Bellevue

The drive-thru distribution event will offer two masks per person

Bullet that killed Bothell officer came from partner’s gun

But prosecutors say that’s “immaterial,” and charged Henry Washington with aggravated murder Friday.

Inslee warns of stay home order as COVID cases rise

The governor urges young people, who are not getting infected the most, to curb their social habits.

Pandemic is spiking in South King County, governor says

Gov. Jay Inslee met with elected officials, health officials and business partners in Federal Way to hear concerns, suggestions about state’s response to COVID-19.