Mr. Health Teacher

Real Education for the Real World

Want Better Sex Ed? Talk To These Teenagers

You’ve probably heard about the amazing students from Stoneman Douglas High School, who’ve been raising their voices for gun control and saying #NeverAgain. Did you know there is a similar movement of teens and young adults pushing for better, more consent-based sex ed in schools?

In the wake of #MeToo, schools and teachers across the country are examining what they’re teaching about consent, sexual harassment, and healthy relationships. The Washington Post reports that this year, “at least two dozen states are considering legislation that would incorporate sexual violence prevention into middle and high school curriculums.”

As a health teacher in California, which adopted the most progressive sex education requirements in the country in 2016 and requires high schools to teach affirmative consent (a.k.a. “Yes Means Yes”), I’ve seen how much can change when states mandate comprehensive sex ed. Like a lot of other educators, I think that better sex education can go a long way towards reducing sexual harassment and assault, and creating schools that are welcoming to everyone, including LGBTQIA students.

Here’s a look at what some of these young activists are doing:


Maryland

8th grader Maeve Sanford-Kelly and her mother, Maryland Delegate Ariana B. Kelly, partnered to put forward a new bill that would require school districts to “provide age-appropriate instruction on the meaning of “consent” as part of the Family Life and Human Sexuality curriculum beginning in the 2018–2019 school year.” Check out Maeve speaking out for affirmative consent here:


Oklahoma

17-year-old high school senior Lauren Atkins is working with a group called “Yes All Daughters” to persuade lawmakers to pass “Lauren’s Law,” which would train public school teachers to to teach about sexual consent in the classroom. In this interview with Vice, she talks being raped by a classmate, and explains that she thinks the young man who assaulted had a better understanding of consent, “he might not have done what he did.”In the video that accompanies the story, it’s clear that her direct, personal approach is very effective at getting lawmakers to consider making changes:


New Hampshire

Chessy Prout is campaigning for more consent education as she promotes her new book, “I Have the Right To,” about her own experiences surviving a sexual assault.

In this interview with the Boston Globe, she explains that “my little sister was a huge inspiration to me with her being much younger, and I still want to help make the world a better place for her and her friends as she’s growing up. So a big focus of mine on the advocacy front will be getting mandatory consent education in all schools, starting at an appropriate age and appropriate topic.”


Pennsylvania

18-year-old KC Miller was so frustrated with sex ed in his state that he wrote his own bill, The Pennsylvania Healthy Youth Act, to change things. When I interviewed him for Scholastic’s Choices Ideabook, Miller said “Instead of feeding children fear tactics and medical inaccuracies — which are the cornerstone of abstinence programs — we need to give our youth the tools to understand how to keep their bodies happy, safe, and healthy.”

Miller is serious about this effort — he’s even founded a non-profit organization to advance the cause. He’s been some great media coverage, with stories in BustleBroadly and Care2, and he just gave this TEDx talk where he explained why he thinks comprehensive sex education is so important:


Minnesota

Consent Education Minnesota is starting a “youth and young adult-led grassroots legislative initiative to pass a state statute requiring K-12 affirmative consent education.” They have enlisted prominent sexual assault prevention activist Abby Honold to help build support for the effort.

The group outlines its goals this way: “We believe the solution to gender violence is addressing it at the root — dismantling toxic masculinity, rejecting rape culture, addressing deficits in social services, and improving healthy relationship curriculum in our schools. Our mission is to educate, train, and support students, parents, and educators to improve their community’s sexual education curriculum, with a focus on consent.”

To support their organizing, they are raising money with a GoFundMe campaign.


Feeling Inspired?

If you’re reading about these teens and thinking that you want to do some sex ed advocacy of your own, check out this great tools that Working to Institutionalize Sex Ed (WISE) has pulled together in this WISE Toolkit. WISE is dedicated to “helping schools institutionalize sex education so that sex education is an ongoing part of a school’s curricula.” Its toolkit is perfect for anyone who wants to change things up in their community or school.



Another great resource for information about sex ed is The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). The organization advocates for “the right of all people to accurate information, comprehensive education about sexuality, and the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health services.” They are always up-to-date on the latest developments in sex ed legislation around the country, and helped created the #teachthem campaign with #MeToo founder Tarana Burke.


Connecting with Youth Advocates

If you are a youth activist and want to find other young people doing similar work, here are some great resources to check out:



Advocates for Youth
 supports a wide variety of fantastic sex education initiatives, but the organization’s Youth Activist Network is especially impressive. They invite young people to “help us to shape our world into one that recognizes adolescent sexual development as normal and healthy and recognizes young people as leaders in the fight for social and reproductive justice.”


ssaisThe organization Stop Sexual Assault in Schools created the #MeTooK12 hashtag, and works with young activists like Chellie Labonete to promote its campaign to rid schools of sexual harassment and assault. The group has pulled together a whole collection of resources for people who are ready to take on this issue in schools.


sexetc
Sex,Etc. is a website and magazine written “by teens, for teens” that covers topics like sex, relationships, pregnancy, STDs, birth control, and sexual orientation. The site’s Sex in the States page provides a “state-by-state guide to teens’ rights to sex education, birth control and more.” It’s a great place for young people who are interested in promoting sexual health to find one another.


scarleteen.png
Scarleteen
 is a fantastic website that provides information on sexuality and relationships for teens. Founded by sex educator and writer Heather Corinna, the site employs a whole group of young people as staff members and volunteers to provide sex ed online.

Teaching About Human Trafficking in Health Class

I was very glad to be a part of this story in The Chronicle of Social Change.

by Katie Morell

The first day of October 2015 was a good day for Chris Pepper. As content specialist for health programs at the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), Pepper and his team had been working on a revised health education curriculum for the city’s high school students when news broke that California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 329.

Dubbed the California Healthy Youth Act, the law made comprehensive sexuality education mandatory for all middle school and high school students and “requires school districts to provide instruction on human trafficking.

While comprehensive sex ed is now the law, the state is not currently patrolling local compliance with the Healthy Youth Act. The ACLU has been proactively promoting the law in the absence of state monitoring.

Pepper started as an SFUSD health teacher in 2002, and while some schools had set curriculums, the city and state lacked subject uniformity.

“The school health program provided some guidance on curriculum, but it ended up that teachers would choose the materials that worked best for their students,” Pepper said.

The district brought some consistency to the process in 2014. The sexuality education curriculum, called Be Real. Be Ready. and built with the assistance of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, was introduced across SFUSD high schools.

be real be ready smallerWith the mandate on human trafficking education, Pepper needed to update Be Real. Be Ready. and develop a middle school curriculum. Pepper partnered with Huckleberry Youth Programs’ intervention services coordinator Carly Devlin to create a program that was separate and appropriate for both age groups.

“We really wanted to provide what human trafficking and exploitation looks like in a lot of different ways, and include a piece on labor trafficking,” Devlin said. “We thought about it in terms of power and control and community health — meeting young people where they’re at and creating space for the complexities of issues.”

Conscious Curricula
By early 2016, teams of teachers, service providers and city officials were gathering to create an updated high school curriculum and develop a new one for middle schools. Lessons were rolled out in late 2016 and spring 2017.

Two lessons were added to Be Real. Be Ready. The first introduced concepts related to labor trafficking, and the second focused on sex trafficking.

“The leap of talking about sex trafficking can be a hard thing to do, which is why we start with labor trafficking and discuss situations familiar to a lot of people, like not being paid a full wage and being threatened by a supervisor,” Pepper said. “Talking about that first helps young people make the connection that sex trafficking is another form of exploitation.”

The middle school adaptation was dubbed Healthy Me. Healthy Us. It is a 13-lesson version with language altered to be age appropriate.

“For middle school students, we talk about situations under the context of consent and boundaries,” Huckleberry’s Devlin said. “We talk about why it is important to have boundaries not just with strangers, but with people you know, because often traffickers are known people in a child’s life.”

Devlin adds that the middle school curriculum was designed to understand the systemic piece that goes into trafficking — discussing who has power and who doesn’t.

“Vulnerability isn’t just at an individual level and students need to hear that,” she said. “There are systems that get youth into vulnerable places like foster care and the like.”

The final lesson in Healthy Me. Healthy Us., which was largely created by SFUSD Health Liaison Coordinator Rosalia Lopez, discusses human trafficking, and starts with the story of an anonymous teenager who was trafficked. It also includes discussion questions for the class afterward.

The high school version spans the last two lessons of the curriculum and goes into more depth for middle school students.

“When we looked at materials available around the topic, we found that most were written as interventions for student groups of people who’d been trafficked themselves, and that isn’t necessarily our audience,” Pepper said. “We have to be aware that some people in the room have experience or some connection and some don’t and we need to be sensitive to those realities.”

Curriculum authors also walked the fine line between scariness versus reality.

“We don’t want to make the world scary for young people,” Pepper said. “We help combat that by helping them understand their rights, how to advocate for themselves, where to go for help and how to understand their self-worth.”

Spreading the Word
The entirety of both middle school and high school programs are available online. Pepper said he has received interest from school districts in other parts of the state.

“Districts are organically reaching out. We’ve worked with Tamalpais Union High School District in the North Bay and I’m heading out later this week to visit the Oxnard [Union High] School District, near Los Angeles, on how to teach the curriculum,” Pepper said. “I think school districts across the state are realizing that the requirements of the California Healthy Youth Act are extensive, and they need to change lessons to meet those requirements and they are looking to us for help.”

Helping Young People Set Their Own Limits

“JUST SAY NO!” That’s often the advice parents give teens about how to deal with peer pressure. It seems simple, but sometimes saying no isn’t so easy. Young people might be worried about being teased, feeling embarrassed, or losing their friends. Setting limits — and sticking to them — can actually be a major challenge for teens. Doing it well takes consideration, skill and practice.

As teens get older, they’’ll likely be spending more time with friends and on their own. Developmentally, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do, and it’s an important part of becoming independent. But becoming independent also means making their own decisions about how they spend their time and what they do with their bodies.

Their friends might be experimenting with drinking or drugs, having sex, or engaging in other types of potentially risky behavior. Even if they aren’t directly asked to join them, they might feel pressure to fit in. But doing things to fit in is basically the opposite of true independence.

I tell young people that if they really want to be independent, it’s important to really think about their own values. They need to figure out what kind of behavior they’re comfortable with, and speak up for themselves. They don’t have to evangelize their beliefs or try to convince anyone that their way is the best way. They just have to act in a way that feels right to them and fits with their own values. And that means they have to spend some serious time thinking about exactly what their values are.

I explain that one of the easiest ways to get some clarity about your own values is to simply make a list. You could call it ’“What’s cool with me?” or “What are my limits?” I tell them to think about the big decisions that teens have to make and how they feel about them. Run through some realistic situations — it’s a lot easier to make the right choice if you’ve thought about it in advance.

For decisions about substance use, it helps to think in specific terms. Here are some things you could say to a young person: “How do you feel about smoking cigarettes? Is it something you never see yourself doing? If so, congratulations. You’ve just clarified one of your limits. Now think about other drugs, like alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. What are your own beliefs about using them? What will you absolutely not do? Are you willing to be around friends who are using them even if you’re not? Are you willing to get in a car with a driver who is high or drunk?

For dating and relationships, young people need to think closely about what they are comfortable with. When do they think is the right time to start dating? What exactly does that mean to them? What are they comfortable with when it comes to physical contact? Is making out ok? Touching? Sex? Where are their boundaries? Are random hookups ok with them, or do they want a long, serious relationship? These things can be tricky to figure out, but it’s a lot easier to think clearly about them in advance than when a cute person is whispering suggestions in their ear.

Now that they have a basic idea about their values, it’s time to think about how they’re going to communicate them to other people. Think about the reasons behind their limits and practice stating them out loud. Maybe they are on a sports team and would face penalties if they were caught. Maybe they don’t want to put their college plans in jeopardy. Maybe they have a family history of alcoholism or drug addiction and they don’t want to take chances with themselves.

Just like shooting baskets or solving algebra equations, setting limits gets easier with practice. Young people can rehearse on their own. Practicing saying things like “That’s cool if you want to do it, but it’s not for me,” “I promised myself I wouldn’t ___________ until I’m done with high school,” or even “I would love to join in, but my mom is really really strict, and I can’t take a chance on her finding out” can help. If teens are clear and firm when they set their limits, their friends will respect them, and they’ll feel good about being true to their own values.

This post was originally published by the Adolescent Health Working Group

Radio Interview: How Do We Teach About Consent in K-12 Schools?

Click-here-to-listen
Wondering how we teach about consent, sexual health, and human trafficking in San Francisco schools? Asking how we handle this differently in our elementary, middle and high schools? Hear all about it in this 12-minute radio interview I did with my co-worker Erica Lingrell for KALW’s “Looking at Education” show.

I’m so glad I got a chance to discuss SFUSD’s ongoing partnership with Expect Respect, and why I think it’s important to teach about healthy dating in schools. I also talk about why, as the parent of a teenager, I value comprehensive sexuality education. Toward the end of the interview, I share some tips for parents about how to start talking about sex and relationships with teens, and how health class can be a catalyst for those talks.

I hope you enjoy listening!

“Yes Means Yes” – A Message High School Health Classes Need to Hear

listenhere.jpg

Did you know that California requires public high schools to teach affirmative consent, also known as “yes means yes”?

SB 695, signed into law in October 2015, “requires public high schools to develop curriculum that covers “yes means yes,” the consequences of sexual violence and how to develop healthy peer relationships built on mutual respect.” This bill, coupled with the California Healthy Youth Act, is designed to make consent and healthy relationships a major part of sex education in the state.

As this bill was being rolled out, I was thrilled to be part of a panel on KALW’s City Visions. The panel features:

  • Shafia Zaloom, a teacher and administrator at Bay Area schools for 20 years and currently a Health Educator at the Urban School in San Francisco, where she creates and oversees all student and parent health education.
  • Hanna Pastrano, a City College student who works with Expect Respect San Francisco, which offers “healthy relationship workshops” to every freshman health class within the San Francisco Unified School District.
  • Sofie Karasek, an anti-sexual violence activist and a co-founder of End Rape on Campus. Prior to her graduation from the University of California, Berkeley in 2015, she spearheaded several federal complaints against Berkeley and has assisted students nationwide in holding universities accountable to Title IX. Sofie has also been a leading advocate for California’s groundbreaking affirmative consent law.
  • And me: Christopher Pepper, a Teacher on Special Assignment with the San Francisco Unified School District, where I help coordinate the district’s high school sexuality education and HIV prevention efforts.

 

New Ideas for Teaching About Tobacco and E-Cigarettes

I was thrilled to be part of a @SHAPE_America‘s November Twitter chat. I joined expert educators from around the country to share ideas about how we can use a skills-based approach to educate students about the risks of tobacco and vapes.

Check out the archive to catch up on all the good ideas and resources. As always, I’m on Twitter here: @mrhealthteacher.

Yes, You CAN Say That in Class

Talk about a frustrating read! In her article “This Sex Educator Was Not Allowed to Say ‘Clitoris’ in the Classroom,” Diana Spechler writes about some of the prohibitions sex educators face in classrooms across the United States.

Reading it, I felt grateful to teach in a district that fully embraces comprehensive sexuality education.  Standing in front of a room of teens talking about condoms or vulvas is challenging enough without worrying that you might say the wrong word and put your job on the line.

San Francisco Unified School District’s high school curriculum includes the information teenagers need to understand their sexuality. We talk about relationships, sexual orientation, gender identity, masturbation, orgasm, birth control, and pregnancy options. We use an inclusive, sex-positive approach to our education, but focus on health and safety, stick to the facts, and steer clear of sharing our personal values. As long as they follow those guidelines, I am able to reassure high school teachers that “Yes, we actually can say that in class!”

Although sharing anecdotes sometimes seems like a good way to connect with students, we train our health education teachers never talk about their own sexual or dating practices. Instead, we encourage teachers to create a safe space for students to address the facts of comprehensive sexuality, understand the multiple topics involved, and help them find additional information and support.

When I first introduce myself to students, I make a pledge to them – I will never lie to them, I won’t exaggerate things to make them seem worse than they are, and if they ask about something I don’t know about, I will do my best to get them a real answer.

We can only expect students to make responsible decisions if they have truthful, reliable information on which to base those decisions.  Our job is to give that to them.

There is overwhelming evidence that that “abstinence-only” programs fail to keep anyone abstinent or safe. The alternative that is backed by research is comprehensive sexuality education – a full set of lessons that includes information about abstinence, but also provide young people with medically accurate information about human anatomy,  birth control options, sexually transmitted infections, safer sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual choices.

Studies show that most parents in our country support comprehensive sex education, but that’s not always reflected in what’s being taught in the classroom. There is lots of room for change on this issue. Find out what’s being taught in your community, and if you don’t like it, advocate for change. Advocates for Youth has some great advice about how to do this. Take a look at the National Sexuality Education Standards for ideas about what should be taught, and check out some of the wonderful curriculum that is available free online, like Be Real. Be Ready. and 3Rs: Rights, Respect, Responsibility. If the laws in your state need to change, take a look at California’s Health Youth Act (which requires districts for teach comprehensive sex ed at middle school and high school) as a model. Parents, teachers and students should all have a voice on this issue!

Celebrating #HealthEd with the CDC

I am thrilled to be part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Adolescent and School Health #oldschoolDASH campaign to celebrate health education. Check out all the portraits of health advocates around the country.

Here’s the Problem With California’s Groundbreaking Sex Ed Law

I was very glad to be a part of this Mother Jones story

BY MADISON PAULY

Five years ago, budget cutbacks in the Fresno Unified School District put an end to “Sociology for Living,” a half-year course for ninth graders—and the only mandatory class taught in the 74,000-student district that involved sex education. Fresno has some of California’s highest rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia, plus the sixth-highest teen birth rate in the state. Yet school officials dismantled the curriculum, according to an investigation by the Fresno Bee, passing off lessons from the class, including HIV prevention, to other teachers. They explained the cut as a way for students to fit more AP classes and electives into their schedules.

A local teen pregnancy prevention group, Fresno Barrios Unidos, soon began a four-year effort to institute comprehensive sex education, according to executive director Socorro Santillan. They met with school board officials and trained youth to advocate comprehensive sex education in their high schools. But only after California passed the Healthy Youth Act in October 2015, making sex education mandatory in all districts, were they able to reach an agreement with the district. Classroom teachers would cover basic lessons like goal setting and life planning, while Fresno Barrios Unidos volunteers would teach subjects that were, Santillan says, “a little more touchy,” like STDs and birth control.

When the Healthy Youth Act passed last fall, California joined 23 other states in requiring that all schools teach teenagers about sex. But California’s law goes further, mandating that comprehensive lessons start in middle school and include information on abortion, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. It’s also the only state to require sex education be medically accurate, age-appropriate, and culturally inclusive, without promoting religion. Sharla Smith, who has overseen HIV and sex education for the California Department of Education since 2005, calls the new law “the most robust sex education law in the country.” Most lessons will start this school year.

There’s just one problem: The state has little way to ensure school districts teach to these new standards. While Smith heads a team that keeps in touch with counties and districts, the state stopped auditing districts for compliance about four years ago because of dwindling funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We’re trying to do the best we can by hook or by crook,” Smith said. “I literally just do not have the money.”

“How will we know that everyone is actually being taught this? Because the law has gotten a lot of publicity,” said Christopher Pepper, who oversees San Francisco Unified’s sex education program. “I’m hoping that leads to greater compliance.”

While districts like San Francisco and Los Angeles Unified have long taught comprehensive sex education and are simply tweaking parts of their curriculum or adapting existing lessons for middle school use, it’s a different story in poor, rural areas like the Central Valley, according to Phyllida Burlingame, who works on the issue for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Northern California office. With fewer resources and a more conservative culture, some of those districts have a history of ignoring even the state’s old, looser requirements. That was the case in Clovis Unified School District, which the ACLU sued in 2012 for inadequate sex education—including using a textbook that lacked a single mention of condoms. (A judge ruled against the district last year.) “School district administrators feel that this is a complicated and challenging subject and parents in their community may not support it,” Burlingame said. “They tend to self-censor what they teach.”

Since 2003, the state has told schools that if they chose to teach sex education, they had to make sure lessons were comprehensive rather than focused on abstinence until marriage. Yet a 2011 survey from researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that many school districts were not complying with the law. Forty-two percent did not teach about FDA-approved contraception methods in middle and high school, and only 25 percent mentioned emergency contraception. Sixteen percent told their students that condoms “are not an effective means” of protecting against pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease—an inaccurate statement, the study noted.

“California’s state financial crisis has eroded much of its network of valuable preventative health programs for young people, making schools one of the last strongholds for providing adolescents with comprehensive sex education,” the authors wrote. “Policies set at the district level may not correspond to the actual instruction taking place.”

After the financial crash, many schools also stopped teaching health classes or changed them from a graduation requirement to an elective, Smith says, and lessons on HIV and STD prevention were incorporated into science or English classes instead. Schools that dropped their health programs will not be subject to a second law, also passed last year, requiring health curricula to include information on affirmative consent—the “yes means yes” standard for consent on California college campuses.

Smith is optimistic, though, that schools will continue to react to rising STD rates among teenagers by implementing the comprehensive lessons required under the new law. “Schools have really been clamoring to teach more sex education, saying we need to do this for our students’ health,” she said.

Still, in the absence of state oversight, the task of ensuring that school districts are talking to kids about safe sex will fall to local groups like Fresno Barrios Unidos. And as the schools get back into gear for the fall and begin implement their lessons, the ACLU will be watching and lending support, Burlingame says: “Districts are aware of this new law and understand they should be implementing it. We’re counting on them to do so.”

California Schools Scrambling to Comply with New Sex Ed Laws

I was very glad to be a part of this story in the California Health Report

By Lynn Graebner

Many middle and high schools across the state, plagued with cases of sexual harassment, assault and even sex trafficking on campus, are embracing two new laws making sex education mandatory for the first time in California.

Schools are welcoming the new laws as they wrestle with how to keep students safe and prevent dangerous situations that have led to investigations and legal action. The federal Office for Civil Rights is currently investigating Berkeley Unified School District after a parent filed a complaint in December of 2014 charging the district with not adequately responding to sexual harassment on campus.

The complaint stemmed from incidents such as male students creating an Instagram page with degrading photos and remarks about female students. Female students also testified at the Berkeley school board meeting in 2014 about being groped and sexually harassed at school and not getting support from school administration. Students have formed a group called BHS (Berkeley High School) Stop Harassing.

“It really kicked us into high gear,” said Susan Craig, director of student services and interim Title IX coordinator for the district. “We want to be ahead of the curve in terms of sexual harassment.” Berkeley High is educating students and staff about how to recognize and report sexual harassment and is making the reporting process less intimidating. And the district is putting funding into a pilot of the school’s revised Social Living course beefing up the sex education portion to meet requirements of the new California Healthy Youth Act.

That law took effect in January and requires schools to cover an extensive list of topics with 7th to 12th graders. In addition to human development and HIV/AIDS prevention, students will learn about sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, negotiation and refusal skills to avoid coercion into sexual activity and sex trafficking. Schools must also address different sexual orientations, contraception, abortion and adoption options.

That’s a far cry from what some school districts are currently offering.

California middle and high schools have been required to teach students about HIV/AIDS prevention since 1992. What has been optional is comprehensive sexual health education.

And that’s putting districts at risk for lawsuits. Last year the American Academy of Pediatrics sued and won a case against Clovis Unified School District for failing to provide information on how to prevent sexually transmitted infections and for teaching abstinence as the only method for preventing pregnancy. Curriculum was also biased against gay and lesbian students. Cases like this have put districts on alert.

“That’s why districts are worried, there’s precedence,” said Timothy Kordic, HIV/AIDS Prevention Unit Project Advisor for the Los Angeles County School District, which faces its own challenges.

Los Angeles has been identified as one of 13 cities with the highest child sex trafficking activity in the nation, Kordic said. Sex traffickers target low income and foster care kids as well as LGBT and special needs youth.

“We have the population,” Kordic said. Children as young as 11 or 12 are being trafficked, some of them by their boyfriends, he said. So the district will be expanding its curriculum on sexual harassment and adding information about sex trafficking.

But overall the Los Angeles district is a model for the nation in terms of its comprehensive sexual education curriculum, Kordic added. It was the first district nationally to get a chapter on LGBT relationships included in a sex education textbook.

Districts will continue to tailor their sex ed courses to their student populations as long as they adhere to state requirements. Despite the long agenda middle and high schools are now mandated to cover, the state does not provide curriculum, but it does review versions from curriculum companies for use.

And there are volumes of research on how to teach these issues effectively and appropriately, said Sharla Smith, school health education consultant for the California Department of Education. School districts are poring through existing and emerging lesson plans from curriculum companies responding to the new requirements. And some districts are writing their own.

“Local control is in effect,” Smith said.

At Berkeley High the school year started with a freshman welcome assembly called SPARK, Student Power Actualized Through Respect and Kinship. It addressed a host of topics including discrimination, sexual harassment and consent.

Students watched the Tea and Consent video comparing initiating sex with making someone a cup of tea. The analogy stresses that you don’t pressure or force someone to drink tea if they don’t want it and you certainly don’t pour it down their throat if they’re unconscious or asleep.

“No packaged curriculum is going to hit all the issues that are relevant in your community,” said Hasmig Minassian, a teacher leader at Berkeley High. So staff there have been developing their own curriculum. Now all 9th graders will get the same comprehensive material Minassian said.

School districts that require high school students to complete a health education course for graduation have another mandate to meet as of January 2016. They are required to include affirmative consent instruction stemming from the passage of Senate Bill 695, first-of-its-kind legislation nationally. That law followed the Yes Means Yes law passed in 2014 combatting sexual assault on college campuses.

To teach affirmative consent San Francisco Unified partners with Expect Respect SF, a City College of San Francisco program that collaborates with local domestic and sexual violence prevention programs. College students come into the high schools to present lessons on healthy relationships. They talk about affirmative consent, how to empower oneself and set boundaries in relationships, said Christopher Pepper, a teacher on special assignment at the district.

And San Francisco teachers have collaborated with staff from health clinics and community organizations in the city to develop a sex education curriculum called Be Real Be Ready. San Francisco’s high schools have been using it for three years and it is free to other districts, Pepper said.

“One of the unique things about the curriculum is we’re able to build in multiple points of connection with people in the health community,” he said. That helps make students feel more comfortable about using those resources when they need them. In addition, all standard San Francisco high school campuses have wellness centers to serve students’ social and emotional needs.

Parents and guardians appear to be on board with the more comprehensive approach to sex education. They have the ability to excuse their children from these lessons, but Craig said of the 3,000 students at Berkeley High, none have been pulled from class.

Teachers are also supportive of having more class time to deal with such sensitive and important issues, Minassian said. “There’s no other place in their lives where we’re guaranteed they’re getting this.”

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