“Yes Means Yes” legislation reaches high schools

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Emma Garcia

Emma Garcia, Online Editor-in-Chief

When Mike leans in to kiss his girlfriend of two weeks, how does he know his actions will be not only reciprocated, but also welcomed?

Since stories like the St. Paul’s School trial and the infamous Rolling Stone article have monopolized the media’s attention, teenagers have been forced to reexamine how they approach all sexual encounters. Forced by whom? The state governments, specifically that of California.

California made history in September of 2014 by passing the “Yes Means Yes” legislation, leading the way for 17 other states who have passed similar laws, and has now made history again through SB 695. The bill was recently signed into law by California Jerry Brown and requires that the “Yes Means Yes” legislation be taught in public high school health classes.

“If the governing board of a school district requires a course in health education for graduation from high school, the governing board of the school district shall include instruction in sexual assault and violence, including, but not limited to, information on the affirmative consent standard, as defined in paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 67386,” the bill reads.

The original “Yes Means Yes” legislation’s main focus was to teach the idea of affirmative consent and now, health classes must begin to start a dialogue that gives students more understanding of this subject.

“Young people all over the country are [being] told that they must have explicit permission from the object of their desire before they engage in any touching, kissing or other sexual activity,” Jennifer Medina of “The New York Times” wrote in an article published on October 14.

Since its publication, the article has caused many other media sources around the country to voice their opinions.

“Under a ‘Yes Means Yes’ policy, there is no room for awkwardness or unsmoothness,” Ashe Schow of the “Washington Examiner” said. “If students don’t follow the policy to the letter at every second (meaning the entire encounter is run like a question-and-answer session) they risk being labeled a rapist. And since sex doesn’t happen like this, every sexual encounter is labeled rape by default.”

At Bear Creek, however, there has not been much of a response to the legislation. It has not been announced exactly how long districts have to implement this new curriculum so as of now,  many teachers are still familiarizing themselves with its requirements

“I am not familiar with the new legislation,” health teacher Cynthia Phipps said. “In order to add more subject matter to my quarter-long class the course will need to be extended. Maybe a semester course will allow me to cover such topics.”

Other than the health class that is already required for students, there are few other options for students to learn this kind of information. However, Link Crew classes and their freshmen will receive a more in-depth presentation. Every year, the Link Crew class invites a few speakers to present to them on topics such as sexually transmitted diseases, birth control, and, recently, affirmative consent. This year the speaker was a representative of Planned Parenthood.

“It is very important for students to know that it is not okay for someone to have physical contact with them (any level – not just sex) if they do not give permission, or if they are too shy or scared to say ‘no,’” history teacher and Link Crew advisor Brenda Heinrich said in an email. “And it is important for the person to understand that they have to get a ‘yes,’ and if someone does not verbalize ‘no,’ they cannot assume that it is a ‘yes.’”