Teachers Grapple With Lessons Around Sexual Assault


– Now, how some schools
are dealing with the very difficult questions surrounding consent, assault,
allegations, and consequences. That conversation was happening prior to the claims made
against Judge Kavanaugh, but as William Brangham tells us, this new information, this new situation has given momentum to what
some see as a teachable moment. It’s the focus of this week’s education segment, Making the Grade. – In a minute, we’ll look
at the different ways that schools are grappling
with this moment in time, but first, let’s hear from some students. Before last week’s hearing with Christine Blasey
Ford and Brett Kavanaugh, our own student reporting
labs asked teenagers around the country this question, “Should adults be held
accountable for the things “they did when they were younger?” Here’s some of what they had to say. – As a teenager, you’re always told how what you do now can affect your future. So I think accountability
is really important. – I think once that they’ve
paid the consequence, then people should just move on from it and it should be over with. – During your teenage
years, you’re more prone to make mistakes and learn from them, but it does depend on the
severity on the mistakes that you do take part in, as a teenager. – I think that a big
part of being a teenager is doing irresponsible
things that probably are not in our best interest in order to learn and grow from them. – I do believe that some of the actions, some of their major life choices that they make as teenagers, they should be held accountable for it. – When it comes to things
like rape allegations, and drug possession, and DUIs, those things stay with
you for life for a reason. And I think that those things
we should bring up later. – This generation’s more aware
of protecting their brand, because we have social media,
unlike my parents’ generation where they could do something,
and it not be documented or, you know, seen by
everyone in the school. – Social media literally, like, everyone finds out about everything, so nothing’s technically ever gone. – As teens, we gotta watch what we post because, you know, you reap what you sow, and then it can eventually
come back on you later. – Say you gettin’ a job, like, they can look on your Facebook and see all that stuff you post and think, “Hey, that’s not the person I wanna hire.” – Those were students from across the US, interviewed by the News
Hour student reporting labs. How schools and
administrators and teachers deal with this event is
a whole different issue. And here with me now is
Education Week’s Evie Blad. Welcome back. – Thank you. – So, this is a very fraught
moment for the country, and I’m curious what your
reporting is showing as how are schools handling this? – It’s obviously a very divisive issue, and it’s one that students bring their own personal experiences, the
things they’re hearing from their family and friends, and their own understanding of the news and events to the table. It fits in with the context of civics education
conversations that have been pretty intense in the
last couple of years, as students have been
more engaged with the news and with a really divisive
political climate. It also fits in with
this understanding of the Me Too movement, which folks
had hoped that students would be listening and
personalizing some of the conversations about consent
and power and decision making. But this is one of the first
big high-profile stories in recent years that
has centered on behavior that took place when both
the alleged assailant and the alleged victim
were in high school. And so in some ways,
students can relate to it and personalize it a lot more easily. – I was really struck in the reporting about how, during the
course of the hearings, when they were being televised, that calls to sexual violence hotlines went up, by one account, almost 200%. And I’m curious, has that
happened at the schools as well? Have children been somehow
moved by this to say, “I’m now gonna share my own story”? – Right, we talked to some
victims advocacy groups who said, you know, it’s
a little too early to tell exactly how this is affecting
women in certain groups, or people in general. But there are groups that are
trying to kind of capitalize on this moment, trying to use it to take, to help students to
personalize, think about, and process issues like consent. They’ve started a
hashtag called #MeTooK12. They’re encouraging people
to share their stories about experiences they had
when they were younger. And some of the biggest
learning for students that’s happening about these issues is not discussing the allegations specifically against Judge Kavanaugh, but
some of the secondary stories that are coming out of it. When the President tweeted
recently that he believed that Dr. Ford should
have or would have shared those allegations with
police when she was younger, there was a hashtag #WhyIDidntReport circulating on Twitter. – Right. – They talked about some of the barriers and some of the reasons
that this can be a really complicated issue for victims, and that could be a teachable
moment for students. – Obviously we live in
a very diverse country. Different religious traditions,
different cultural values. How does, I mean, when
you talk about the issue of consent in particular,
do schools teach that as part of a sex ed curriculum? – What schools teach in
America about sex education is a really varied patchwork. A lot of what is decided
about what is taught in the classroom, is
set by state mandates, and states have very different ideas about what schools should
teach, what they should be prevented from teaching,
and what decisions should be left up to them. There is a growing movement
to focus less on specific behaviors, contraceptives,
and things like that, and to focus more broadly
on decision making, and developing a personal ethic. And there are some
conversations about consent that are coming into play. Having students discuss
real life situations, the difficulties of the
decisions they may face, the impact of those decisions. And there are some states
that are really moving forward with some new mandates. In California, for example,
a couple of years ago created a law that requires
state schools that teach sex ed in K-12 to teach
affirmative consent, which is basically yes means
yes, rather than no means no. – In every school? – Yes, but that is far more progressive than some states’ policies,
which are a little more restrictive because there’s a
social climate in some areas that says this is more
the role of the family. – Back to the Kavanaugh-Blasey
Ford hearings, do you know, did schools
actually run the hearings, did they show them in class,
did they show excerpts? What did your reporting
show in that regard? – You know, there wasn’t
a universal response, but we heard from some
teachers who said this was sort of an unavoidable news moment, and so some of them showed
clips of the hearings in their class to have discussions. Some of them allowed
students to livestream it, and allowed some to opt out.
– Just on their phones, even? – Yes. And then, a lot of them
are having conversations about how did we get to this moment? I think there’s a lot of
assumptions among older adults about what they’re bringing to the table in how they think about
the Kavanaugh hearings. We heard from a school in San Francisco that was having actually
a teach-in on Anita Hill. We’re hearing schools talking
about the gender balance in the Senate, and some
less controversial issues that aren’t related to sex and consent, but are related to, say,
the separation of powers. We’ve got all three branches at play here, and there’s some basic
questions that students can toss about in their mind. Why is the Supreme Court so important? Why are people so emotional about it? What does it mean when a party
has control of the Senate? What would it look like if
this confirmation hearing were happening when the
President and the Senate were of different parties? – Evie Blad of Education Week, thank you. – Thank you. (trumpet music)