An Oregon school district is in a tough spot thanks to a strange policy
Acording to Oregon law, anyone under 18 can not legally give consent for sexual activity, which means all sexual activity for such minors is classified as sexual abuse. Because Oregon has mandatory reporting laws, teachers and staff in a district with over 40,000 students were recently told they must report any students they learn are having sex.
Something about this seems off.
Teachers and families in the Salem-Keizer school district are in a tizzy after the reporting policy was reiterated at a recent teachers’ training session.
“We felt like we hadn’t made it clear enough,” Superintendent Christy Perry stated to the Statesman Journal. Staff at the session were given examples of when they’d need to alert authorities. Some of these scenarios include things like when a 15-year-old tells a teacher she’s having sex with her boyfriend when asking about birth control options, or if a 14-year-old confides that he’s been kicked out of his parents’ house for being gay, or admits he’s engaged in sexual activity, or if a teacher overhears students talking about having “hooked up” at a party.
School officials tried to mitigate concerns. “Simply reporting to the state doesn’t mean police are going to be knocking on the door of students,” district spokeswoman Lillian Govus told local news station KOIN. “What it does allow for is an abundance of caution in ensuring that our children are safe.”
Many students are not reacting well to the policy, including Kimberly Schott, who initiated a petition to end the policy because she thinks the policy is far too broad and will rob kids of potential guidance.
“This leaves students with no one,” Schott wrote in the petition she’s circulating. “The students no longer have that safe teacher they can talk to. Instead, the students must find a way to be sneaky and hide so that they don’t get reported, which could lead to several more issues.”
Making things worse, Salem-Keizer seems to be the only district adhering to the policy. The Statesman Journal reached out to multiple towns around the state and none of them require such strict reporting.
This policy seems like an example of good intentions that will have negative results.
Sex is a tricky thing, especially when you’re a teenager exploring it for the first time. Kids can only benefit from the ability to openly seek advice on the subject, and for many, discussing it with a teacher or an adult mentor at school is often easier, or at least more palatable, than talking to one’s parents. This policy robs teens of the ability to safely discuss it with such adults, both for the lack of privacy and out of fear that they’ll face consequences.
“I lose the ability to have a private conversation with a trusted adult who works for the district, about something personal to me,” Angel Hudson, a student in the district wrote in a letter to the superintendent. “Talking about sexual activity between teachers and students should be confidential.”
Schott organized a protest at the Oregon State Capital last Monday, and so far, over 1100 people have signed the petition to remove the mandate.