Middle-schoolers say sexual education leads to sexual harassment
Two middle school students said that a sexual education bill in Olympia will lead to sexual harassment at schools on the part of other students.
The bill mandates comprehensive sexual education for every year, kindergarten through 12th grade. Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal previously told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show that younger classes would focus on how to identify harmful touching, while reproduction and other sexual topics would wait until middle school.
Abby*, an eighth-grader at Curtis Junior High in University Place, said in the sixth grade, a male teacher taught the students what sexual intercourse was.
“It was extremely awkward, first of all, just having a male teacher telling me that for the first time,” she said. “And there was a lot of extra detail that went into it, and it was extremely embarrassing — especially sitting in a class of both boys and girls.”
The details included over-the-top answers to students’ questions, she said — such as a question about getting HIV from toilet seats.
“It just went extremely far down this tunnel of explaining it, when I think it is extremely unlikely, and something I don’t think sixth-graders should know,” Abby said. “It just made me feel really uncomfortable.”
Abby and her classmate Sarah said the sexual details in their textbook seemed to inspire the boys in class to view them in a sexualized manner. One of the pages in the textbook detailed how to arouse a female, Abby said; she added that this was one-sided — there were no details about how to arouse a male.
“It opened the door to other stuff, like comments about girls’ bodies,” Sarah said.
At lunchtime, Sarah and Abby have heard male classmates make objectifying comments about their bodies. They have asked the boys to stop, but to no avail.
“I have seen guys grab girls’ butts and comment stuff like that,” Sarah said.
She added that if a girl stands up for herself and says this is not OK, she is painted by the boys as rude.
“Girls have to take this stuff, these comments,” Sarah said.
If they do stop, they just seek out another girl to harass, Abby said.
According to Sarah, teachers have not really been able to push back against the sexual education lessons, perhaps because they are afraid.
“The culture of the school is so powerful that they set up this and then it’s hard to stop,” Sarah said.
Abby does not see why these classes need to be taught, since she has already learned about reproduction from conversations with her parents. She has thought about opting out of the classes, but worries about repercussions from classmates.
“It puts more attention on you, which you don’t want … boys will make fun of [you], most likely,” she said.
The two students plan to testify against the sexual education bill in Olympia. They have an idea for an opt-in system, in which students could elect to take sex ed classes if they have not received this kind of education at home.
As the daughter of a pastor, Abby said she feels compelled by these classes to learn things that completely go against her beliefs. This, to her, seems to violate the right of religious freedom.
“I feel like if they implement this law right now, it’s breaking the First Amendment,” she said.
*Last name left out at personal request.
Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.