- The topics of healthy teen relationships and the need for consent in sexual relationships is missing from most sexual education and heath programs at just the time when such information is most needed, Education Week reports.
- Middle school and high school is the time when most ideas about male-female relationships crystallize, but in the absence of proper instruction, many students come to harmful conclusions; yet most states don’t require that these topics be discussed.
- The current wave of sexual harassment allegations and the #MeToo movement has brought this issue to light, and advocates are trying to help schools and state legislatures understand the school’s potential in helping students “recognize what harassment looks like, how to stop it from happening, and how to avoid becoming perpetrators.”
In 2016, a school district in North Carolina was sued because of its response to an incident that occurred on a field trip to Washington, DC. During the trip, a girl was reportedly sexually assaulted by her fellow students after denying consent, while another student, the son of a school resource officer, filmed the event and later shared it on Snapchat.
Such nightmare scenarios are not uncommon, but they are underreported — especially since data collection under the Clery Act is not required for high schools. However, according to a 2015 U.S. News article, CDC data reveals that 30 % of female rape victims were first raped between the ages of 11 to 17, while Justice Department statistics show close to 20% of girls between the ages of 14 and 17 have been victims. Additionally, the article notes a 1990 study showing that a quarter of girls and a sixth of boys will be sexually abused by age 18.
Another study revealed that “1 in 5 high school women and 1 in 10 high school men reported experiencing dating violence.“ Many of these sexual assaults are committed by minors, with almost 2,200 minors charged with rape each year and another 9,200 charged with other sex offenses.
Clearly, there is a need for a broader discussion in schools of healthy relationships, sexual harassment, and the legal, ethical and moral aspects of sexual engagement. Fortunately, there are some options for teaching these concepts. The Center for Healthy Teen Relationships, a project of the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, created a helpful curriculum review resource to help schools select an approach to prevent, intervene and respond to issues involving adolescent dating abuse, sexual assault and stalking. Discovery Education also offers free lesson plans on sexual harassment. However, discussion of these issues can also arise naturally these days in discussion of respect for one another, soft skills for the workplace and current events.