In September 2018, a high school student from Detroit, Michigan was suspended for five days for engaging in consensual sex with another student.
The suspended student was arrested and charged with sexual assault, sexual battery, and disorderly conduct.
He was released on bail in December 2018 after a judge found he “failed to comply” with the court order to undergo sex-education classes.
A few weeks later, Dearborn High School was forced to cancel a football game and the school’s principal was charged with misconduct after allegedly grabbing a student by the arm and yelling, “You don’t know how much I love you.”
The student was later cleared of any wrongdoing and resigned from the school.
This week, the Michigan legislature approved a bill that would require schools to implement sex-ed classes, but would allow districts to opt out of them if they do not want to comply.
“A lot of times, kids are not getting the help they need, the guidance they need,” said Lisa L. Hagan, the executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
“So if they don’t have sex ed, it’s really difficult to know where to turn for help.”
In response to the recent Dearborn incident, the Dearborne School District released a statement saying the school “has an obligation to provide high-quality sex- and violence-prevention classes that will help students who have engaged in consensual sexual activity with others.”
The district’s chief of staff, Robert D. Cawthon, wrote in a letter to parents that “a lot of the problems in our schools are rooted in poor education that fails to adequately support our students.
In addition to a commitment to teaching students how to avoid sexual exploitation, it is our duty to support our youth in their quest for safety.”
A bill to force districts to teach students how not to rape was introduced in Michigan last month.
The bill, SB 10, would require districts to establish an education program that addresses the “safety, well-being, and empowerment of students.”
Schools could choose to adopt a more comprehensive sex-awareness program or opt out altogether.
The state House of Representatives passed the bill last month, and is expected to take up the legislation this week.
Meanwhile, a new study by a Michigan public health expert says the state’s sex- ed program is “highly ineffective” and is “disproportionately targeting black and Hispanic girls.”
“Sex education is often focused on the importance of ‘avoiding rape’ and ‘avoid being sexually assaulted’ rather than the prevention of sexual violence,” said Maryann B. Scott, a professor of social work and public health at the University of Michigan and the author of a forthcoming book on sex-based violence.
“It is not only ineffective but can also perpetuate and reinforce negative stereotypes about women, girls, and other vulnerable populations.”