High School Sex Ed Teaching ‘Yes Means Yes’ Rape Prevention

This is the new look of high school sex ed: A roomful of teens, 14-year-olds mostly, is told that a girl and boy meet at a school dance. The boy drives her home. They kiss. What happens next, over the girl’s protests, leaves him confused and her crying, no longer a virgin.

“Raise your hands if you think this was rape,” health educator Justin Balido asks the Carlmont High School freshmen, drawing them into a debate that has preoccupied college administrators, lawmakers and the courts.

Sex education in American schools is evolving beyond slideshows on reproductive biology and lectures on avoiding pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The new focus: teaching students communication skills, such as the “yes means yes” standard for seeking and giving consent during intimate encounters.

After taking hold on college campuses, “yes means yes,” also known as affirmative consent, is trickling down to high schools and even some middle schools, as educators seek to give students tools to combat sexual violence.