In this revolution of high-profile sexual misconduct scandals, teaching young people what’s appropriate, what’s not appropriate, and how to react to bad behavior is the focus of a Missouri bill. A state House committee will consider this evening whether to require Missouri schools teaching sex education to include curriculum about sexual harassment, violence, and consent.
Missouri school districts are not required to have sexual education as part of their curriculum. The proposal would require that these new areas be included for those that do. It would define what consent, sexual harassment, and sexual violence are.
Bill sponsor Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, says she wants students to learn how to protect themselves and to respect others.
“I want them to know some clear-cut signals and how to make those clear-cut signals. I think it makes a lot of sense,” says Rehder. “I think it’s a small – doesn’t cost the state anything but could do a world of good.”
Rehder says University of Missouri students gave her the idea to sponsor the legislation. They believe teaching high school students about those subjects could prevent situations that can cause life-changing harm, and Rehder agrees.
She says the issue goes beyond her duties as a legislator. The mother of three is thinking about the generations to come.
“I think that’s the prism that we need to look at it through – what would we want for our children? What do we want them to know and be prepared for before they go into college,” says Rehder. “Or not college – before they go into the workplace and you have people over you. I think that these are just very important things to know before you’re thrown out into the world.”
At least one of the many USA gymnasts sexually abused by a team doctor has written a letter in support of Rehder’s bill. Dr. Larry Nassar was sentenced last month to up to 175 years in prison for victimizing young female gymnasts.
Amanda Thomashow tells lawmakers young people must be equipped with knowledge to protect and empower them, and she says Rehder’s legislation does just that. She goes on to say she realized many of those Nassar assaulted didn’t know they were being abused, at least not at first, and trusted the doctor.
Tuesday’s hearing before the House Committee on Children and Families will begin at 5 p.m. at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City.