New Sex Education Promotes Sexual Assault Prevention

In Aug. 2017, actress Alyssa Milano revived #MeToo to encourage people to speak up about being sexually assaulted; since then, millions of people have used this hashtag. An offshoot of this movement, #MeTooK12, focuses on bringing awareness of sexual harassment in schools. According to the Department of Justice, nearly 20 percent of girls between the ages of 14 and 17 have been victims of an attempted sexual assault. Inspired by the California Healthy Youth Act, Palo Alto has passed the new Required Comprehensive Sexual Health Education and HIV Prevention Education law, effective Jan. 1, 2018. This law mandates all students grades 7-12 to receive comprehensive sexual health and HIV prevention education once during middle school and again during high school. Through this law, students will learn how to prevent sexual assault from occurring by learning about consent and signs of an unhealthy relationship between students. Students should be more invested in sexual harassment education as a part of school curriculum to learn a wealth of important information and to show their support for the prevention of sexual assault.

Sexual assault education will be a valuable addition to the Living Skills curriculum. Before the implementation of this law, students learned about how women can protect themselves against sexual assault and about STDs and the harms of unprotected sex. This course, however, neglects to address both parties involved in sexual assault and harassment. The new curriculum seeks to show that all parties engaged in sexual relations are responsible for asking for consent, and provides a place in school to promote conversations about consent in sexual relationships.
When some students refuse to take the content seriously and are only taking Living Skills for credits, they are undermining the people who have worked hard to pass this law, as well as those who have fought for basic human rights on school campuses. The new law will add more material regarding adolescent relationship abuse and intimate partner violence, including its warning signs. It will be an important addition to the middle school sex education and Living Skills curricula by beginning the process of spreading sexual harassment awareness at a young age.

Moreover, students can take these lessons to college and beyond. According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), an anti-sexual violence organization, a startling 11.2 percent of all college students are raped or sexually assaulted. It is useful to teach high school students that these actions are not acceptable. Many potential victims will learn how to protect themselves and others.

All middle school and high school students should be devoted to the sexual harassment prevention curriculum. The knowledge taught in these classes will help others in the future and change the way people respond to sexual harassment. By staying educated and promoting respect, students can create a more inclusive environment that reduce the amount of sexual assault in middle schools and high schools so that no student will have to say “me too” anymore.

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