District sex ed curriculum needs changes

Recent events have been skimmed over with no substantial action

We, the editors of Ripples, feel that the district’s consent education curriculum and response to the stories shared by SHS students and alumni is inadequate and insincere. 

Existing issues regarding the school district’s curriculum and handling of sexual assault cases were brought to light in late March. Particularly notable is the lack of a cohesive and thorough curriculum throughout the district regarding consent and sex education. The content needs to be more extensive when it comes to topics of sexual consent, and students need to get this education multiple times throughout their career at Shorewood.

The content needs to be more extensive when it comes to topics of sexual consent.

The current curriculum for sex education at Shorewood follows standards set by the state of Wisconsin. Wis. Stat. 118.01 lays out the requirements for sex education, which include discussion of sexually transmitted diseases, communication between the student and their parents about their sexual health and the benefits of abstinence. Currently, there is no state legislature in Wisconsin requiring consent education at any level, although classes for sixth, ninth and eleventh graders at Shorewood cover consent to some degree.

Regardless of statewide legal requirements, Shorewood should have a cohesive consent curriculum for students beginning in elementary school. According to the CDC, teaching skills like practicing safe relationships and building communication skills is vital in preventing sexual violence later in life. It should be a priority for Shorewood to create a district-wide consent education curriculum in order to prevent sexual violence.

At the elementary and middle school levels, the current curriculum involves discussions of consent only in sixth grade. Outside of sixth grade, it is completely up to the teacher’s discretion. This is problematic in multiple ways. First, middle schoolers should certainly be engaged in conversations about healthy relationships and consent as they enter their high school years. But perhaps more importantly, there need to be required discussions of consent starting at a very young age. Learning about consent is not only important in the context of sex education, but should start early in other contexts so children have a core understanding of how to respect other people’s boundaries. 

The curriculum is also lacking for older students. According to a communication from the administration on April 6, there are two classes at SHS that cover “consent, healthy relationships, sexual abuse, assault and misconduct (including what to do if you are a victim).” 

The curriculum covered in Integrated Health is vague and lacks depth; time is devoted to mindless repetition and memorization rather than thinking critically about the depth of these complicated topics. It’s important to clearly establish conversations about sex and consent as, at their core, conversations about human morality and ethics. This is something that is sorely lacking in the freshman curriculum 

Although Integrated Health only covers sex education on a superficial level, Lifetime Wellness aims to more thoroughly approach topics such as consent and healthy relationships. However, students who participate in a sport can opt out of the junior health course. Considering that athletes on college campuses are six times more likely to commit sexual assault than their peers, according to Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR), it doesn’t make sense that Shorewood athletes can opt out of the more detailed education regarding consent and healthy boundaries.

It’s clear that the current curriculum is inadequate for supporting the needs of students. The education itself lacks nuance and depth, and it is far too easy for students to miss the conversation altogether. This is a problem in and of itself. But since this came to light, why haven’t we seen more effort from the administration in combating these issues? 

The communication that was sent out on March 24th cited “cases involving fellow former SHS graduates,” neglecting to mention the stories shared by current students as well. There were no further communications amending this partial truth. There is no excuse for inaccurate or incomplete communication from the administration.

Although individual teachers have been working to create a new curriculum for the high school, the administration is minimally involved with these efforts. There are currently no plans to renew the outdated health textbook, which was last updated in 2011. And district-wide plans to amend the curriculum are sorely lacking.

Even after students shared their opinions and stories, the administration failed to respond sufficiently.

Ultimately, the Shorewood district administration needs improve both their curriculum regarding consent, and their response to new information about the prevalence of sexual assault in the district. It feels like the curriculum is not prioritized, but sped through to check off a box on an extensive list of topics to cover in Health. And even after students shared their opinions and stories, the administration failed to respond sufficiently.

It took a mass coming forward of students publicly sharing about potentially the scariest and most vulnerable points of life on social media for these changes to be discussed. While they idle in the discussion phase, the culture continues as it has.