KENAI -- Alaska's 54 public school districts will soon be preparing to implement programs next year aimed at preventing dating violence and sex abuse.
A task force working to create a model curriculum for the Safe Children's Act will present its recommendations for a sexual awareness and prevention bill that passed in 2015 by June 30. The legislation will take effect June 30, 2017, The Peninsula Clarion reported.
"Our hope is that the task force will work with districts to develop low-impact, high-gains programs that allow districts to provide meaningful educational opportunities for students," said John Pothast, director of secondary education for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
Under the bill, schools would establish sexual abuse prevention training programs for employees and students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Students in the seventh through 12th grades would also receive training on dating violence and abuse prevention. All information must be deemed age appropriate, and parents can excuse their children through a written request.
According to the 2015 Alaska Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 7.5 percent of all high school students reported having forced sexual intercourse, while 9.5 percent reported experiencing physical dating violence and 10.1 percent reported experiencing sexual dating violence. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services gathers the data from high school students statewide each year.
Patricia Owen with the Department of Education & Early Development said the legislation passed last year allows "all of us to work together to keep our children safe and end the high rates of abuse and violence in Alaska." She said many districts have already established similar programs, and will be able to make changes based on the task force's findings.
"School districts will have the year between the recommendations and implementation," Owen said. "It's up to individual school districts to implement the curriculum of their choice."