Guide for schools on statutory rape eyed

A teacher’s guide on explaining statutory rape to teenage students has been flagged by the Clark County School Board, whose members want more information on the instructional material before approving it for use.

Board members were vague in explaining the hold, much to the confusion of district employees.

“We don’t know why (it wasn’t approved),” said Mary Pike, Clark County School District director for science, health and foreign language instruction.

The “Parents and the Law” teacher’s guide was only referred to by a code number when it came up for discussion at Thursday’s board meeting. The topic of statutory rape was never mentioned during the discussion, which is expected to resume Aug. 28.

In Nevada, statutory rape is defined as anyone age 18 or older engaging in intercourse with a person under age 16. The American Journal of Public Health and the Population Reference Bureau both found that two-thirds of teenage girls who give birth have babies fathered by men 20 and older.

Because of the sensitive nature of sex education, the district has a parents advisory committee review new content for district classrooms before it goes to the board. The sex education materials in dispute squeaked by the parents advisory committee in a 3-2 vote, although the two dissenting members did not explain their votes beyond the fact that they didn’t like the guide, said David Miller, the district employee who works with the committee.

But the two opposition votes got the attention of School Board Member Ruth Johnson, who said she recognized that the material was intended for an upper-level high school class.

“I did look at it with the potential of it going to a more mature class,” Johnson said. “I could see why there are reservations on the parts of the members. I just agree with the minority vote on that one.”

Johnson added that her objection was not about the sex education content.

“It was the multicultural issues that are included in this, but I’m happy to bring it back,” she said.

The guide in question gives teachers some “devil’s advocate” talking points on how to engage students on the issue of statutory rape, Pike said, including the multicultural point that it is customary in some societies for older men to marry much younger women.

“Many cultures have arranged marriages for centuries,” said the teacher’s guide, which is produced by Street Law Publications in Silver Spring, Md.

Johnson said she did not think the instructional materials gave enough context so students could discuss “the multicultural issues.”

Pike said she was neutral on whether the guide should be approved or not. She stressed that the material in question is not a textbook, but a supplemental guide to leading a classroom discussion. It’s intended for use in upper-level elective classes such as Child Development and Independent Living.

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug@ or 702-799-2922.

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