California Just Became The 1st State To Mandate Sexual Consent Lessons In High School

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Three cheers for the Golden State! California has been setting the bar high when it comes to progressive measures that protect its citizens and allow them to prosper. There are a number of really important issues that Governor Jerry Brown has signed bills for in order to ensure Californians can live safe, happy and healthy lives. And full disclosure, since we are a website based out of Los Angeles, we admit we are a little biased, but are happy to share what the state legislature is doing with our wide readership.

We will share some of the list of new laws that have been implemented in just a moment, but first we would like to virtually give a standing ovation for a new law which we believe will have a huge impact on the rape and sexual assault problem amongst our youth. California has become the first state to require high schools teach sexual consent lessons, along with other sexual education.

This seems like a no-brainer, but sadly consent is not necessarily defined in many legislatures, which makes cases of rape and sexual assault immediately become a grey area and allow for defenses such as “she was drunk” or “she was wearing a slutty outfit” become somewhat reasonable excuses in a case. The new high school law mirrors the affirmative consent laws mandated by colleges, which so far only California and New York have signed.

The epidemic of rape on college campus has gotten so rampant, and has received a lot of media attention (finally!) that even the White House and the Obama Administration has gotten involved, and focused on sexual consent as part of their ‘It’s On Us’ campaign aimed at tackling sexual and domestic violence in general.

It is estimated that between 20-25% of women on college campuses across America are raped throughout the course of their college education. Less than 5% of rapes or incidents of sexual violence and assault are reported to any form of authority, which, if you watch the documentary ‘The Hunting Ground’, hearing how many girls’ stories were covered up or ignored by college institutions makes you wonder why there isn’t any firm policy on this issue to protect students.

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Now that California and New York have started the ball rolling to combat this issue, we sincerely hope the other 48 states will follow suit. But it also has to start young, which is why CA’s high school initiative is going to also potentially impact the number of assaults happening on colleges in the future.

“California must continue to lead the nation in educating our young people—both women and men—about the importance of respect and maintaining healthy peer and dating relationships,” Assemblyman Rocky Chávez said about the bill.

The bill states sexual activity is only considered consensual when both partners clearly articulate their willingness to participate through “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement” at every stage.

The new law it set to take effect on January 1st, 2016, and schools must inform parents about the new curriculum. Parents who are against this measure are allowed to have their students opt out of sexual education altogether, but c’mon folks, this is vital information that our youth need to be armed with.

There are some who are unhappy about the new legislation, most notably abstinence only educators, who believe the law focuses only on risk reduction rather than risk avoidance.

“We are very concerned that we are seeing a move toward consent being the arbiter of whether or not teen sex is appropriate. We think that is a disservice to our teens and it also ignores all the scientific research showing young people are much better off both now and in the future if they don’t have sex,” said Valerie Huber, president of the National Abstinence Education Association.

If you are interested in the “scientific research” she mentions, you can read more about it by clicking here.  We do want to emphasize that it is important to know where this information is coming from and the agenda of the organization behind it.

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To counter this, we would like to point out that states which put all sexual education funding into abstinence only programs end up having the highest numbers of teen pregnancies. We believe comprehensive sexual education, knowledge about consent, and having open communication about this issue is going to be the most effective solution, rather than just teaching kids not to have sex.

Other concerns include the law not clearly defining what rights the accused person has, and also that these new affirmative consent laws on college campuses as well as now in California high schools are not a criminal legal standard. It definitely has to include a few more details, but in the meantime, the fact that there is now a law requiring the education of what sexual consent means is a huge step forward in teaching a generation of what rape actually is in the hope that it will prevent more of these crimes.

We are thankful to California legislators for leading the way on this issue, as well as a number of others. Let’s take a quick look at what other measures Californians need to know about.

In the wake of the vaccination hysteria that seemed to peek earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law in July that requires parents of children in private and public high schools and elementary schools as well as child care centers and and pre-schools. Schools cannot admit children unless they are immunized against 10 diseases: diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type b (bacterial meningitis), measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, rubella, tetanus, hepatitis B and chicken pox.

This happened after a measles outbreak in Disneyland in April (i.e, a disease that was effectively abolished thanks to vaccinations) which some say was a result of parents believing in false medical information that vaccines cause autism, which has never been proven.

In August Jerry Brown signed a bill that now requires Cheerleaders to be afforded basic employee rights for their work. There have been many stories of cheerleaders for professional sporting teams who do not get paid for their work which includes practices, event appearances, performing at games and other marketing requirements. Certain cheerleaders started speaking out about the unjust ways they were being treated by this multi-million dollar teams and got the attention of certain California legislators, who sponsored the bill and eventually had it signed by Jerry Brown. No matter what your opinion of cheerleaders are, they deserve to be paid like all other workers in this country.

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October was a busy month for the California legislature, as the Fair Pay Act was also signed into law which is believed to be the strongest protection against gender wage discrimination in the country. The US Senate has yet to ratify this law on a federal level (sadly it has been voted down time and time again) but it is a women for women in the Golden State.

The legislation requires employers to justify their reasoning for salary differentials between employees doing “substantially similar” work, by citing “a bona fide factor other than sex.” These factors include concrete qualities such as education, professional experience, technical skills, and seniority.

The Fair Pay Act enables female workers to openly ask for and discuss co-workers’ salary information, while explicitly protecting them from employer retaliation, a protection that did not exist before. This law builds on the California Equal Pay Act of 1949.

After the horrific Oregon school shooting which once again brought out many divisive arguments about mental illness and gun control, California at least took one step forward in this seemingly never-ending violence that happens almost every day in the US. Jerry Brown signed legislation that would ban the carrying of concealed weapons on school and university campuses across the state.

Of course it has been opposed by a number of gun advocate groups who believe that children in schools are now knowingly going to be left completely vulnerable and without any form of protection, but when we are living in a first world country where we are having discussions about how better to arm teachers (instead of focusing on their jobs as educators) and convincing citizens that guns are a vital form of protection, rather than attacking the problem of far too many mentally ill people easily getting their hands on a weapon, it’s ridiculous to keep having discussions about the need for more guns, in our opinion.

And finally a bill that we are extremely happy to hear California signed, is a law that cracks down on anti-abortion and crisis pregnancy centers. California becomes the first state to pass this type of legislation, and it happened in the wake of the Planned Parenthood saga where a series of undercover videos filmed by an extremist anti-abortion organization purports to show the health care centers selling baby parts for profit. (Note: every state that has since investigated Planned Parenthood’s activities relating to this issue has found no wrong doing.)

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This new California law forces some crisis pregnancy centers to offer information about public assistance for reproductive services and others to notify patients that there are no medical professionals on staff, and was passed with a large majority in the state assembly.

According to reproductive right advocates who championed this bill (including NARAL Pro Choice America) crisis pregnancy centers sometimes provide pregnant women with misleading medical information in order to discourage them from ending their pregnancies. Others are ambiguous about whether they perform abortions or not in order to get women through the door. An investigation by NARAL showed that almost half of California’s crisis pregnancy centers teach the popular anti-abortion myth that terminating a pregnancy is linked to a patient’s chances of developing breast cancer.

It should be the right of every woman to make the right and informed choices about her pregnancy and health, without the added burden of bullying, shaming and misinformation. This law is a major step forward in fighting for women’s reproductive health rights (not that we should STILL be doing this given abortion is legal in this country and has been for over 40 years!).

And speaking of healthcare, the last bill we want to mention extends health coverage to undocumented immigrant children in the state. It goes into effect in May 2016, sets aside $40 million for public healthcare coverage for 170,000 undocumented immigrants 18 and under. It is projected to cost $132 million each subsequent year.

In the wake of plenty of anti-immigrant rhetoric being used as a political calling card for 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump, this is a huge slap in his face.

“This is a tremendous victory that will send a message across the country that says compassion should always trump bigotry when we’re talking about our immigrant population,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara who introduced the bill. He and others believe health care is the right of every individual in this country, and want to eventually see the bill extend to all undocumented immigrants.

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Overall we are happy to see California being a leader on issues that affect such a wide percentage of the population. Sexual consent and comprehensive sexual education will go a long way in teaching the younger generation of men and women about respect for each other, and why rape is a crime, not a grey area or some sort of achievement.

If you are living outside of California and are looking for some helpful information about consent for your teens, Planned Parenthood recently released a 4-part series designed for kids ages 17-22.

“When it comes to sexual encounters in film or television, models of consent and healthy communication during sexual intimacy are rare,” said Dr. Leslie Kantor, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood in a statement.

“Many times on screen, partners engage in sexual behavior without talking about what they want, what they’re comfortable with, or using protection. This means young people have very few examples of giving, hearing, and asking for consent. Planned Parenthood designed these new videos to be fun and sexy, as well as educational.”​

These may make some feel uncomfortable, but teaching kids about boundaries, respect, equality, and open communication is unfortunately not always a foregone conclusion. There are some very important messages and concepts on display that every person should know about, especially teens. Here are the videos below:


 

8 Comments

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  3. Just a quick thing to check in about accuracy–I think that only those schools that mandate health programs in general are required to now have prevention of sexual violence curriculum.

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