Should Schools Rethink Sex Education in the #MeToo Era?


– The MeToo movement
has forced a discussion about sexual harassment and
consent in the workplace, in Hollywood, and in the locker room, but what about in schools? While colleges have tackled the issue by training students about
relationships and consent, those who teach sex
education in K through 12 say it needs to start much earlier. Special correspondent Lisa Stark of our partner Education Week visited a Washington, D.C., school that is committed to
comprehensive sexuality education. It’s part of our weekly
segment, Making the Grade. – Well, let me ask you, what do you think we’re
gonna talk about today? – Sex.
– Sex. – Sex? Okay, who said sex? Excellent. – [Lisa] This is sex ed on steroids. Yes, there’s the usual talk of anatomy, safe sex, and abstinence, but the key focus, how all this
plays out in the real world. – So what that looks
like on Saturday night or if you’re interested in someone. – Shafia Zaloom has been teaching comprehensive sexuality
education for 25 years. How many kids are getting
this kind of sex education? – I don’t think a whole lot. – [Lisa] But there’s a
big push to change that. – There are growing allegations
of sexual harassment. – [Lisa] The uproar over recent cases of sexual harassment and assault, the resulting MeToo movement, has some states and school districts rethinking their sex ed curriculum to include healthy relationships, preventing violence, ensuring consent. – There is a need for there to
be conversation and education around all the different ways in which our culture
influences our relationships and social dynamics that may
lead to harassment or assault. – [Lisa] Senior Tyce Christian agrees. – We have a book on healing. – [Lisa] She’s worked to help
victims of sexual assault. – Most sexual assaults,
especially in high schools, are by people that you know,
people that you see every day. And I think that’s one of the reasons why we need to talk about consent
and healthy relationships, because it helps reduce sexual assaults. – [Lisa] Christian attends
Georgetown Day High School, a private school in Washington, D.C., that my children attended. The school brought in Shafia Zaloom for a week of sexuality education, much of it focusing on consent, how to know if someone is agreeing, or not agreeing, to intimacy. – Consent is what makes sex legal. It protects the fundamentals
of human decency, which, of course, is essential. – [Lisa] Zaloom, a San
Francisco-based educator who teaches around the country, puts it in language anyone can understand. – How many of you like french fries? Oh, yeah, okay. Put your hands up high, fries lovers. – [Lisa] “Okay,” she says. “What if you sit down at a lunch table “with your french fries “and friends just start grabbing them?” – How many of you are
actually okay with that? – Even if I don’t want all the fries, it’s just the principle of the fact that they think they can take my fries, when I bought them with my money. – I mean, in general, the
people who respect you enough to ask are the people that
you want to share with. – Now, how does this
actually relate to sexuality? Not to minimize the topic
of consent with fries, but what belongs to you? – Your body.
– Your body. People’s bodies belong to them. They get to choose how
they touch and get touched, because their bodies belong to them. – [Lisa] Zaloom uses movie
clips to help teens figure out what consent should look and sound like. – Okay. – [Shafia] Was it consensual? – Yes.
– Okay, how did you know? Yup?
– He asked what she wanted to do beforehand. – “Asked what she wanted
to do beforehand.” How do you want to be, right? – [Lisa] And if it’s not consensual? – So you have every right,
then, in that moment to say, “You know what, this doesn’t
feel so right, I wanna stop,” and that no one should
every have to engage in a sexual experience that they
don’t feel comfortable in or that they’re coerced into, that we have the right
to change our minds. – [Lisa] These can be tough
subjects to talk about, but students like Logan McDermott-Mostowy are thankful for the discussion. – I just think it’s really important so people know not only how to be safe from things like pregnancy and STDs, but also sort of how to feel empowered to ask for what they want
within sexual relationships, and just have good relationships. – [Lisa] Sex education is required in just over half the
states and Washington, D.C. What that includes varies widely. – It’s a patchwork of laws right now, and that is really challenging. – [Lisa] Chitra Panjabi
is president and CEO of a group that helped developed the National Sexuality
Education Standards, which any school can utilize. – So, the standards are comprehensive, in that they include things
like anatomy and physiology, pregnancy and reproduction,
healthy relationships. – [Lisa] But most districts
aren’t using the standards, or teaching the sex
education topics, 19 in all, recommended by the Centers
for Disease Control. Just 38% of high schoolers and 14% of middle school
students nationwide are getting this education, everything from information on
sexually transmitted diseases and contraception to
decision-making skills. – We’re still not reaching
as many young people as we could be reaching and, quite frankly, as
we should be reaching. – I mean, with their consent,
there’s nothing wrong with it. – [Lisa] That is especially
true when it comes to young men. – If this is an issue that
disproportionately affects women, but men are disproportionately
the perpetrators, men have to be involved
in the conversation. – [Lisa] Jacob Gaba and Alex Thompson are working to make that happen. – And so, we’re gonna be talking about what happens at dances, how consent applies or doesn’t apply. – [Lisa] They’ve formed
a group at Georgetown Day called Boys Leading Boys. At lunch meetings twice a month, the discussion focuses on male culture and how guys can help fight
sexual harassment and assault. – We’re kind of trying to start to hold ourselves and other young men
accountable for their actions and to teach each other how to
hold their peers accountable. – [Lisa] Today, the talk is
about what’s called grinding, dancing with bodies up close, and how to make sure the
girl is okay with that. – It’s a tough space to
communicate in, right? It’s dark. There’s a lot of loud music. – I think an easy, just
tap on the shoulder, and, “you good,” so that you
can hear and a thumbs up. – [Lisa] And what if you see
another guy behaving badly? – [Jacob] What would you guys do to intervene in that situation? – I sort of just got his attention and pulled him over to the side and started talking to
him about something else. – Awesome.
– It’s not easy to change centuries of common behavior. So have you have gotten any pushback from any of the male students here, like, “Oh, come on, give me a
break,” or anything like that? – Sometimes, someone will say, like, “Oh, what you guys are doing is so soft. “Why is it such a big deal that
guys want to be masculine?” – [Lisa] Schools are often where attitudes about how men and women behave
get learned and reinforced. It’s one of the reasons
Zaloom and others believe this is the right place to educate teens on consent and healthy relationships. – I want to encourage you, when it comes to your
relationship practice, that there would be respect,
empathy, and dignity. – I think that the more we know and the less confusion there
is and gray areas there are, the easier it will be to
navigate these situations when we face them later in
life, in college and beyond. – [Lisa] Situations brought into the open with the MeToo movement, and that some hope can be prevented with education like this. – A sense of self-worth, absolutely. – [Lisa] For Education
Week and the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Stark in Washington, D.C. (gentle music)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *