U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Claire McCaskill welcomed the inclusion of key provisions of their Teach Safe Relationships Act in the compromise version of the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA) introduced on the Senate floor today by U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).
Kaine and McCaskill introduced the Teach Safe Relationships Act in February to ensure public secondary schools teach students “safe relationship behavior,” which would focus on preventing sexual assault, domestic violence, and dating violence. The idea for the legislation came out of a December 2014 meeting Kaine had at the University of Virginia to listen to students’ recommendations for preventing campus sexual assault.
“After meeting with a group of UVA’s student advocates for survivors of rape and sexual assault, I was struck by how many of them expressed concern over the lack of high school education on consent and healthy relationships,” said Kaine. “Educating students about these crimes that disproportionately impact young people, both on and off our college campuses, can help raise awareness and prevent violence. I’m pleased key provisions of the Teach Safe Relationships Act were included in the compromise education bill introduced today, and I look forward to debating this important legislation on the Senate floor this week.”
“One of the best ways to prevent sexual violence among adults is to educate them about healthy relationships as young people,” said McCaskill, a former courtroom prosecutor of sex crimes. “As we’ve seen in our work to curb sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, most young adults form opinions and behaviors about sex and relationships before they hit 18—so if we can better teach them about consent and safety when they’re young, we can better prevent violence and promote safe behavior in their futures.”
According to the Justice Department, more than 290,000 Americans are victims of rape and sexual assault each year with young women between the ages of 16-24 consistently experiencing the highest rate of intimate partner violence.
The compromise version of the Every Child Achieves Act, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and was introduced on the Senate floor today, incorporates key elements of the Kaine-McCaskill bill. Under the original Teach Safe Relationships Act, schools that used ESEA funding for health education would be required to include guidance on safe relationship behavior. The Senate’s ECAA bill includes a section supporting critical social programs for students, such as mental health and drug prevention and incorporates elements of the Teach Safe Relationships Act into this new title by requiring all schools that apply for Title IV funding describe how they are educating students about safe relationship behavior regardless of whether they use ESEA funds for health education. Additionally, ECAA enables school districts to use their Title IV funding to improve their “safe relationship behavior” education.
The compromise bill also includes the Teach Safe Relationship Act’s definition of safe relationship behavior as developing effective communication skills and recognizing and preventing coercion, violence, or abuse, including teen and dating violence, stalking, domestic abuse, and sexual violence and harassment.
The Teach Safe Relationships Act has been endorsed by the following organizations: One Less at the University of Virginia, Advocates for Youth, The AIDS Institute, AIDS Alliance for Women, Infants, Children, Youth & Families, American Association of University Women (AAUW), American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American Sexual Health Association, Break the Cycle, Family Equality Council, Human Rights Campaign, Legal Momentum, National Council of Jewish Women, National Education Association, National Organization for Women, National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), Society of Public Health Education (SOPHE), The Trevor Project and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance.
ECAA will be debated on the Senate floor this week. The compromise bill also includes key provisions of Kaine’s Career Ready Act, bipartisan legislation that would help ensure students are ready for postsecondary education and the workforce by encouraging career guidance programs in schools and requiring states to incorporate career readiness indicators into their state report cards.