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Jackson Announces Legislation to Include Sexual Assault Prevention in High School Curricula

Building upon California’s first-in-the nation "Yes Means Yes" campus sexual assault legislation, California Senate leader Kevin de León and Legislative Women’s Caucus chairwoman Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, announced Senate Bill 695, which would transform high school health curricula to educate adolescents on sexual assault prevention.

SB 695 will require health courses, which are a condition of graduation at a majority of California high school students, to provide instruction on sexual assault, violence and the importance of developing positive, healthy relationships. The instruction must include information on the affirmative consent standard established in SB 967 (De León/Jackson), Chapter 748, Statutes of 2014.

Known nationally as the "Yes Means Yes" bill, SB 967 set a national example and made California the first state in the nation to define affirmative consent and require institutes of higher education to educate students about consent and sexual assault during their orientations. Colleges must also increase training for faculty reviewing complaints so that survivors of assault aren’t re-victimized by inappropriate questions when they seek justice. Schools are also required to increase counseling and health service resources which are absolutely critical for recovery when assaults occur.

“We’ve created a culture that’s so anti-young woman," de León said. "We need to decrease the amount of misogyny that’s taking place. 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. This legislation will focus on prevention by educating high school students about affirmative consent and healthy relationships.”

“If we want to prevent sexual assault, it’s important that we start early," Jackson said. "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, give students the skills they may need to navigate difficult situations, and prevent sexual assault before it occurs.”

Liana Thomason, Berkeley High School student representing the steering committee of BHS Stop Harassing, a grassroots student-led organization working to change the culture around sexual harassment and violence, said, "My fellow seniors and I have received very little education around sexual harassment in high school. Soon, we will go to college, where lack of education means unsafe campuses and increased chances of sexual harassment and assault. SB 695 will allow high school students to become leaders in preventing sexual assault and sexual violence, and nothing is more critical if we want to change the climate of California high schools and colleges."

Savannah Badalich, a student at UCLA and the founder of 7000 in Solidary who testified in support of SB 967, said, “Consent education in high school health classes is monumental because sexual violence doesn’t start on college campuses, it’s something that’s socialized much earlier. The earlier you start consent education, the easier it will be to create a culture of consent and support, not just on our college campuses but in our larger communities. This legislation is a huge step in helping prevent sexual violence.”

“We applaud Senators De León and Jackson for their leadership in addressing sexual assault in health education,” said Sandra Henriquez, executive director of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA). “By including the affirmative consent standard in health education we have an opportunity to create a cultural shift for the prevention of sexual assault.”

The National Organization for Women California Chapter President Patty Bellasalma said, “By adding instruction in high school that helps young men and women develop healthy and equitable approaches to relationships we are making a much safer and more equitable world.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, from 1995 to 2013, the highest rate of rape and sexual assault victimizations affected females ages 18 to 24; 42.2 percent of female rape survivors are under age 18. The White House cites that 1 in 10 teens have been physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the last year.

— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.


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