SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Two California lawmakers said Tuesday that they are hoping to get a head start on preventing sexual assaults on college campuses by having high school students learn about what constitutes consensual sex.
Senate President Kevin de Leon and Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson announced they have introduced legislation that would require school districts where health education is a high school graduation requirement to make sexual violence prevention a part of the curriculum.
The two Democrats’ bill, SB695, specifies that such instruction must include informing students about the “Yes Means Yes” law the Legislature approved last year that required all colleges receiving public funds to adopt a so-called affirmative consent standard for investigating assault allegations and determining if both parties were willing participants in sexual activity.
Under that standard, only an unambiguous “yes” establishes mutual consent. For the purposes of campus investigations and disciplinary proceedings, students who are drunk or asleep are to be considered incapable of giving consent, and silence or lack of resistance by an alleged victim is not a valid defense.
“If we want to prevent sexual assault, it’s important that we start early,” said Jackson, who chairs the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. “This bill will ensure that discussions about healthy relationships and consent are taking place in high school, with young women and young men, so we can help establish boundaries of acceptable behavior.”
De Leon’s staff said the majority of high schools in California require health classes as a condition for receiving a diploma. The courses typically cover a range of topics that include bullying, nutrition, drug and tobacco use, sexually transmitted diseases and peer pressure, according to content standards approved by the State Board of Education.
De Leon said it makes sense to add discussions about rape and sexual assault to the mix.
“We’ve created a culture that’s so anti-young-woman, we need to decrease the amount of misogyny that’s taking place,” he said. “Young men are going to have to stand up. They can’t remain voiceless on this issue, and it’s going to have to start in high school.”
Bill Ainsworth, a spokesman for Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, said it was too soon for state education officials to have a position on the bill.
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