Comment: Lawmakers dismiss concerns for well-being of boys, men

Two lawmakers refused to schedule hearings on bills for a commission to study issues of health and education.

  • Saturday, February 10, 2024 1:30am
  • Opinion

By Philip W. Cook / For The Herald

State Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, and Rep. Bill Ramos, D-Issaquah, suffocated a house bill and companion senate bill that had bipartisan support in both houses, refusing to grant these bills (HB 1270, SB 5830) a hearing. The bills were designed to establish a Washington State Commission on Boys and Men.

The measures would have helped address the growing concern regarding deaths of despair in Washington state. From 2018 to 2022, more than 16,000 boys and men have died from suicide, overdose and alcohol related causes. The bills would have also addressed growing educational gaps. A report with new data, obtained by the Global Initiative for Boys and Men (headquartered in Friday Harbor) from the state Department of Education reveals that boys of all races are behind their female counterparts by significant to extreme margins in English language arts across all grade levels.

Simple fairness and equal protection under the law should require the Legislature to pass such a measure. It would identify ways to helps boys and men; similar to other state commissions focusing on particular segments of the population such as state commissions for the LGBTQ+ community, Commission on Aging and the Washington State Women’s Commission

Hunt and Ramos might want to explain their positions to the families who lost their sons to overdose, suicide and alcohol death and who continue to show failing outcomes in K-12 and college education.

The bills had bipartisan support in the House and Senate, which makes the unilateral decisions by Hunt and Ramos surprising. Groups across both sides of the aisle worked together over the last three years to bring these important bills forward. Hunt and Ramos did not respond to questions regarding their decisions to keep the bills from receiving a hearing.

In a virtual town hall however, on Jan. 30 with Hunt, Rep. Jessica Bateman D-Olympia, and Rep. Beth Doglio, D-Olympia, a question was asked about a commission on boys and men. The response was not taken up by Hunt but by Doglio.

The response from the virtual town hall had a distant tone about the commission on boys and men as an “interesting concept” with “interesting statistics” that seemed to cavalierly overlook the 16,000 boys and men in Washington state who died from deaths of despair from 2018 to 2022, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s important to mention that Doglio said there is a “need to lift up and appreciate and love all people in our communities, including boys and men.” Many people want to believe that sincerity, but it comes at a time when data regarding the troubling outcomes of Washington’s boys is piling up.

In a state where 80 percent of suicide deaths of those 25 and younger are male and 70 percent of all opioid deaths are among males. Hunt and Ramos seem dismissive regarding these outcomes.

Bothmight want to explain their positions to the families who lost their sons to overdose, suicide, and alcohol death and who continue to show failing outcomes in K-12 and college education.

The issues affecting boys and men cut across all racial groups, and the decision to forgo a hearing on establishing a Washington Commission on Boys and Men dismisses the underlying causes as well as the short-term and long-term painful consequences.

Philip W. Cook lives in Friday Harbor and is the secretary-treasurer of the Global Initiative For Boys and Men, www.gibm.us.

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