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Sex education in school curricula needs a big overhaul – The Royal Gazette

Created: May 10, 2022 07:52

Should there be a one-size-fits-all approach to child sexual abuse and exploitation prevention classes in Bermuda schools?

First I want to say that I understand that this subject cannot be covered in its entirety in a single article. I can also understand that this is a very sensitive topic, and most of the time one that gets swept under the rug. This alone is one of the main factors as to why child abuse statistics are what they are today. I hope that after reading this article, conversations can be started that ultimately lead to action.

Rakaya Simmons

Some may say that sex education is already part of the school curriculum. I want to mention that I do not intend to offend or appeal to anyone in particular; however, the lack of uniformity in public schools regarding how sex education is taught needs to be addressed. Moreover, it must be established that there is more to sex education than promoting abstinence.

We are aware that minors engage in sexual activity; it’s well known. Thus, I believe it would be beneficial to focus on courses on sexual abuse and the prevention of child exploitation. Some may say that their child or children are getting the safe talks and what is acceptable as a young woman/man. However, some parents don’t know what their child is being taught about safer sex and reporting to a trusted adult when they are uncomfortable or have been abused.

Is the school reporting process explained in detail? Is it more than just a lesson with the teacher or a faculty member reading information from a brochure? Or is there also student engagement to make sure the understanding is there? Is there any data showing that the existing program around these topics has been helpful in addressing these issues? Do faculty members report when they see inappropriate behavior? These are very important questions which, unfortunately, I cannot say can be answered favorably.

My first year in law school, I learned about illegal carnal relations and the laws regarding grooming, and that a minor – anyone under the age of 16 – cannot consent to any sexual activity. However, the conversation around these topics should start no later than high school. These topics should be taught so that students understand the laws, including that it is not necessary to physically abuse someone to be wrong or to face legal ramifications.

The goal is not to regurgitate the law to the students; it’s about informing them so they can be more responsible and make more informed decisions. Also, making the reporting process easier and more visible should be a priority. After speaking with some of my peers, I realized that unfortunately there is no thorough understanding of what is legal and appropriate, and what is not.

A law establishing how this subject should be approached in schools would be beneficial in this climate. In addition, a law requiring all public schools to teach students classes to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation would ensure that all students receive the same education and that the school would be held accountable. This is not a topic that should be glossed over; it is the one that must be faced head-on.

I should also note that it is the collective responsibility of the parent and the school to ensure that our children are informed. Children spend most of their time in school settings, and if the subject is to be addressed, it should be done fully and effectively. The problem is that all the students on the island do not receive the same in-depth lessons and the current program must be reviewed.

We simply need more accountability, because sexual abuse and exploitation prevention courses are fundamental. I don’t mean they are more important than the rest of the topics – but they are just as important and should be treated as such. These are not matters on which we can afford to be nonchalant or to be wrong. More needs to be done; It’s that simple.

I hope I have intrigued the reader enough to start asking questions. As mentioned, there is so much more that needs to be discussed; more than one item may cover. I want to end with this: we, as villages raising young people, must do better on their behalf.

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