National teen dating violence
Comprehensive sex education provides age-appropriate and accurate information that goes beyond the standard heterosexual and cisgender lens on how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections by also addressing gender, relationships, consent, and issues affecting LGBTQ students.And it does all of this in a developmentally appropriate manner.Nicole Cushman, executive director of Answer, an organization that provides and promotes comprehensive sexuality education, said it is unclear from available national data what the quality of these programs are.“What that data doesn’t tell us is the quality of those conversations and the overall message that is being given,” Cushman said.Advocates for comprehensive sex education say schools should teach students, who are often inexperienced in relationships, what healthy relationships should look like.According to the CDC’s most recent data on schools’ approach to teaching students about relationships and abuse, 66.4 percent to 98.6 percent of schools across states addressed violence prevention that includes bullying and dating violence.“That’s why we go back to what we hear from young people, and they tell us that their concerns aren’t really being addressed — that sex ed feels scary, mechanical, or biological, and it’s really narrowly focused on disease prevention and often very fear-based.
Those things can be used to assert control over a partner,” Cushman said.
Yet, schools often fail to develop clear policies on addressing dating violence and there is a great deal of variability in how schools teach students about healthy relationships and what constitutes abuse.
A recent study in the peer-reviewed journal found that only 35 percent of public school principals who participated in the study addressed dating abuse in violence prevention policies.
In 2013, Chicago considered a new K-12 curricula on sexual health that would include age-appropriate education on recognizing when people did not want to be touched, but conservatives bemoaned it as “sex ed for kindergarteners.” Overall, however, Cushman is optimistic that schools are interested in teaching students more about what healthy relationships look like, not so much because of the #Me Too movement, but because middle school and high schools have been paying attention to conversations on preventing campus rape.
Cushman said the real barrier for educators is often a lack of time to include all of the content they would like in a sex education curriculum because schools are focused on standardized tests and developing reading and math skills.