SALEM, Ore. — Teachers in Oregon’s second-largest school district have been told to contact law enforcement if they learn a student is sexually active, even consensually with someone their age.
Officials in the Salem-Keizer School District told the Statesman Journalthey are complying with state law. Under Oregon law, any person younger than 18 is unable to give consent, so any sexual activity is considered abuse and must be reported by people who work in certain professions, including teachers.
Some students, teachers and parents believe the strict interpretation of the law will leave teens without an adult they can confide in at school. An online petition opposing the policy has generated more than 550 signatures. A few students protested at the Capitol last week and another rally is planned.
“This leaves students with no one,” McNary High School student Kimberly Schott wrote in the petition she started. “The students no longer have that safe teacher they can talk to. Instead, the students must find a way to be sneaky and hide so that they don’t get reported, which could lead to several more issues.”
Her father, Dylan Schott, said he doesn’t condone teen sexual activity, but believes in fewer “government involvements in our personal lives and more personal responsibility for training our children to be good citizens.”
The Statesman Journal contacted other districts around the state and none followed mandatory reporting to this degree.
District Superintendent Christy Perry said a required training session on child abuse this summer included information on mandatory reporting. She said some employees remained unclear on what’s required, so the district recently created another presentation on when an employee must file a report.
The district provided staff a handful of examples of when an employee needs to report, such as:
• A 15-year-old student comes to your office and tells you that she is having sex with her boyfriend and would like to talk with someone about birth control options.
• Your own 17-year-old son tells you that his 16-year-old girlfriend is pregnant.
• A 14-year-old boy confides in you that he was kicked out of the house after his parents discovered he was in a same-sex relationship. During the conversation, the student shares that he has engaged in sexual acts with his partner
Perry said students can still ask questions in class, or when speaking with a teacher or counselor. But if the student specifically references their own sexual activity in context to the comment or question, the teacher is responsible for reporting it.
When a report is filed, including on consensual sexual activity, the authorities might thank the individual for the report and do nothing, or they may file it away to examine later. Or the report could be addressed immediately, which could include an officer or Department of Human Services representative coming to the school.