The average age Americans have sex for the first time is 17.3 years old. Oregon law stipulates that anyone under 18 years old cannot legally give consent, meaning all sexual activity between minors is considered sexual abuse. This policy, district officials say, stems from Oregon’s mandatory reporting and child abuse laws.
Teachers in the Salem-Keizer school district were recently told that if they learn or merely suspect a student is sexually active, they must report it to law enforcement or state officials. At a training session for teachers and staff the subject came up because “we felt like we hadn’t made it clear enough,” as Superintendent Christy Perry told the Statesman Journal. According to the Washington Post, during the presentation, the district offered several specific examples of when an employee needs to contact law enforcement. These include a 15-year-old telling a teacher that she is having sex with her boyfriend and wants to learn about birth control, or a 17-year-old confiding in a teacher that his 16-year-old girlfriend is pregnant.
“Simply reporting to the state doesn’t mean police are going to be knocking on the door of students,” district spokeswoman Lillian Govus told KOIN. “What it does allow for is an abundance of caution in ensuring that our children are safe.” According to the mandatory reporting rules, employees who fail to report are violating the law and could be sued or otherwise punished. The school district which includes more than 40,000 students claims this strict policy is for the teenagers’ safety.
Most students don’t feel comfortable anymore to talk openly about their worries about their sex-life. “I lose the ability to have a private conversation with a trusted adult who works for the district, about something personal to me,” [11th-grader Angel] Hudson said. “Talking about sexual activity between teachers and students should be confidential.”
Some teachers will ignore the law for the benefit of children. “To me, I feel like I’m being told to tell the students to shut up,” a teacher who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Keizertimes. “Teachers are also being told to establish appropriate adult-student connections so that when students come to school they feel safe and cared for. If students have a trusted adult at school that they need to talk with about sex, I see no problem with teachers being that.”
Parents started a petition after a recent staff training that clarified questions about sexual conduct between teenage students and mandatory reporting. The petition is calling for the District to make clear that students are free to talk with trusted adults at their schools about sexual topics without fearing that the information will be used against them. “So rather than reporting it to the authorities, use that to gain trust, get insight and educate the kids. That way you’ll know what’s going on,” parent Joyce Stevens told KATU.
Photo Credits: I Am the Sex Talk Lady