State’s push to teach teens about domestic violence, teen dating falls short, SA councilman says

Senate Bill 9 goes into effect in December and would give guardians or parents the ability to opt-out their students from this kind of education.

San Antonio councilman Manny Pelaez is asking that city council consider a request to mandate that any school district or university that takes city funds teach family violence, teen dating, or sex trafficking to students, without the option to opt-out.

San Antonio – In September, state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 9 during the second special session, which sets out the guidelines for how school districts teach students about family violence, child abuse, sex trafficking and teen dating violence.

The law goes into effect in December and would give guardians or parents the ability to opt-out their students from this kind of education.

Christina Campos, with Family Violence Prevention Services, said a child’s understanding of what relationships look like starts at home. The problem is when intergenerational domestic violence is prevalent, the cycle repeats itself.

“We need to have comprehensive domestic violence awareness starting at schools. We need something that’s prevalent throughout the community,” she said during a KSAT Town Hall on Domestic Violence Awareness on October 6th.

Carrie Wilcoxson, a child and family case consultant and advocate, is often invited to classrooms to talk about child abuse and domestic violence prevention. She thinks the bill is going to trigger more outcries.

“It’s going to trigger an uptick in reports for child abuse,” she said. “These children know far more than what we think they do. I think that the greatness about this particular piece of legislation is that it’s going to provide those children and youth that are experiencing some of these things an opportunity to have a safe place to turn to.”

But Councilman Manny Pelaez said he believes the bill falls short by allowing guardians to opt-out a student from getting this training.

“Rapists don’t give their victims an opportunity to opt-out. Sexual predators and sexual traffickers don’t give their victims an opportunity to opt-out. People who perpetrate domestic violence never give their victims an opportunity to opt-out,” he said. He thinks lawmakers failed victims.

He’s filed a CCR, looking to see if the city could pass an ordinance that would require any school district in Bexar County that gets city funds in one way or another or has a contract with the city to require those schools to mandate student training on sexual abuse, human trafficking, and domestic violence without the option of opting out.

“Every single time we witnessed one of these tragedies of a murdered woman or a murdered young girl, there is always a relative or a neighbor or a coworker who says, ‘I didn’t know what options to give her,’” Pelaez said.

It will take several months to see if that’s an action that the city council will vote on.

SB 9 is named after a Grand Prairie, Texas teen killed in 2000 by her ex-boyfriend. The bill goes into effect on December 2, of this year.

KSAT checked with some of the area school districts to find out if they have a curriculum that includes these topics.

SAISD said it partners with UT Teen Health to provide instruction in healthy relationships through the Real Essential Curriculum. The district also has a partnership with Communities in Schools and with SAPD’s Handle with Care Program to provide Tier 2 & 3 counseling supports to students who may have been impacted by domestic violence.

NEISD said it too provides guidance lessons on healthy relationships that include those topics.

NISD reports that these particular topics have been covered in its health curriculum under the broader scope of healthy relationships. In addition to the health curriculum, campus counselors also cover topics related to healthy relationships and safety through guidance lessons.

More on KSAT:

KSAT Community to host a domestic violence phone bank on Oct. 20

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.