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Lawmaker Introduces ‘Yes Means Yes’ Legislation

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A bill in the state Legislature would change how schools teach sex education. The new curriculum would focus on “changing the culture” around sexual assault. Cheyna Roth reports.

“Under the current system, my daughter will be taught where not to walk, what not to wear, where not to leave her drink, while my sons will never be taught not to be perpetrators,” said bill sponsor, state Senator Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing).

The bill would require schools that teach sex education to talk about “affirmative consent” as a component of a healthy physical relationship. Schools would also teach students that silence is not consent, that consent can be taken away at any point, and that the existence of a dating relationship between two people doesn’t imply consent. Students would also talk about sexual assault, dating violence and bystander intervention.

Similar legislation was introduced last year. One concern at the time was that the legislation would promote sexual activity. But Executive Policy Director of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Kathy Hagenian said the opposite is true.

“When those students are given that opportunity to have this conversation, they actually become much more comfortable in thinking through what are their boundaries, what is their level of comfort, what is it that they would want or not want,” she said.

The bill does not make sex education a requirement in all schools. Parents would also still be able to pull their kids out of the sex education class.  

Hertel said he hopes the bill will get a committee hearing soon.

“I think this is really, honestly, just trying to teach people basic respect for their partners and basic respect for other people’s bodies,” he said. “And that shouldn’t be partisan.”

SB 620 was introduced Tuesday. It’s waiting for a committee hearing. 

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County.
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