LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. -- Allegations of sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, dating back to his teen years, has put the prevalence of sexual assaults among school-age children in the spotlight.
In 2017, a year-long investigation by the Associated Press uncovered roughly 17,000 official reports of sex assaults by students in grades K-12, between 2011 and 2015.
This week in Lancaster County high schools, students were given a survey about dating and relationships. One of the questions:
“You’re at a party and a girl there is drunk and passes out. Some boys decide to take her to a bedroom and take turns having sex with the young lady, what would you do?"
Paul McKenzie, who’s been the research director at the district for 20 years, wrote the question.
“It’s an effort to get young men that when bad things happen, they stand up and take a stance. And so that’s what that question was, 'what would you do? Would you call the police, would you call a parent, would you not know what to do at all?'” McKenzie said.
McKenzie said issues such as bullying, violence and sexual assaults among high schoolers are a reality and the survey was meant to gauge the teen’s perceptions of each issue before a new program, Engaging Men and Boys, begins.
McKenzie said the program will be an elective course at the high schools and will be run in part by the group, Palmetto Citizens Against Sexual Assault, with curriculum developed by a local church. He said many young men in the community lack strong, male role models and added the program will include participation by church leaders, police officers and other community organizations.
“The data that we collect is not only to identify problems but also to help us generate solutions and monitor to see if they’re working or not,” he said.
But some parents say that particular question was not only inappropriate but the school district never told them about the survey.
“You know, if they want to do a survey, that’s fine do a survey, do it online with your mom or dad, mail it, whatever, but this isn’t something to go in the classroom and be presented with before the parents know and before we can talk about it with our minor children,” said Jennifer McAteer.
McAteer found out about the survey when her son, who attends Lancaster High School, texted her while filling it out.
McAteer isn’t against the issue of sexual assault being talked about but believes it should be a conversation kept at home.
“I hope that this does not start the conversation, which it has. I think this should be talked about with me and my children, not through children and my children. This should be talked about at home,” she said.
School officials said all high school students will be surveyed again in three years to see if their program is working.