Until recently, staffing shortages at Biggby Coffee were so severe that many of the chain’s 300-plus stores had to close early some days, or in some cases not open at all. But while hiring remains a challenge, the pressure has begun to ease, said Mike McFall, the company’s co-founder and co-chief executive. One franchisee recently told him that 22 of his 25 locations were fully staffed and that only one was experiencing a severe shortage.

“We are definitely feeling the burden is lifting in terms of getting people to take the job,” Mr. McFall said. “We’re getting more applications, we’re getting more people through training now.”

The shift is a welcome one for business owners like Mr. McFall. He said franchisees have had to raise wages 50 percent or more to attract and retain workers — a cost increase they have offset by raising prices.

“The expectation by the consumer is that you are raising prices, and so if you don’t take advantage of that moment, you are going to be in a pickle,” he said, referring to the pressure to increase wages. “So you manage it by raising prices.”

So far, Mr. McFall said, higher prices haven’t deterred customers. Still, he said, the period of severe staffing shortages is not without its costs. He has seen a loss in sales, as well as a loss of efficiency and experienced workers. That will take time to rebuild, he said.

“When we were in crisis, it was all we were focused on,” he said. “So now that it feels like the crisis is mitigating, that it’s getting a little better, we can now begin to focus on the culture in the stores and try to build that up again.”

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Media Advisory: Charles Schwab Bank and FHLB Dallas to Present $16K to Fort Worth Nonprofit

FORT WORTH, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Charles Schwab Bank and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas) will award $16,000 in Partnership Grant Program (PGP) funds to Housing Opportunities of Fort Worth (HOFW) during a ceremonial check presentation at the HOFW offices in Fort Worth, Texas. The media is invited to attend.

HOFW helps low- to moderate-income families access and maintain affordable homeownership. The organization works with clients one-on-one to provide homebuyer education and loan counseling.

PGP awards provide 3:1 matches of member contributions to provide grants up to $12,000 per member to help promote and strengthen relationships between Community-based organizations (CBOs) and FHLB Dallas members. The PGP also complements the development activities fostered by FHLB Dallas’ Affordable Housing and Community Investment programs.

       

 

WHAT: 

     

Check presentation for HOFW

       

 

WHEN:

     

2:30 p.m., Monday, October 3, 2022

       

 

WHO: 

     

Andrea Glispie, Senior Manager, Community Development, Charles Schwab Bank

       

David O’Brien Jr., Executive Director, HOFW

       

Melanie Dill, Community and Economic Development Product Manager, FHLB Dallas

       

 

WHERE:

     

HOFW main office

1065 West Magnolia Avenue

Fort Worth, TX, 76104

 

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The Supply Chain Broke. Robots Are Supposed to Help Fix It.

The people running companies that deliver all manner of products gathered in Philadelphia last week to sift through the lessons of the mayhem besieging the global supply chain. At the center of many proposed solutions: robots and other forms of automation.

On the showroom floor, robot manufacturers demonstrated their latest models, offering them as efficiency-enhancing augments to warehouse workers. Driverless trucks and drones commanded display space, advertising an unfolding era in which machinery will occupy a central place in bringing products to our homes.

The companies depicted their technology as a way to save money on workers and optimize scheduling, while breaking down resistance to a future centered on evolving forms of automation.

persistent economic shocks have intensified traditional conflicts between employers and employees around the globe. Higher prices for energy, food and other goods — in part the result of enduring supply chain tangles — have prompted workers to demand higher wages, along with the right to continue working from home. Employers cite elevated costs for parts, raw materials and transportation in holding the line on pay, yielding a wave of strikes in countries like Britain.

The stakes are especially high for companies engaged in transporting goods. Their executives contend that the Great Supply Chain Disruption is largely the result of labor shortages. Ports are overwhelmed and retail shelves are short of goods because the supply chain has run out of people willing to drive trucks and move goods through warehouses, the argument goes.

Some labor experts challenge such claims, while reframing worker shortages as an unwillingness by employers to pay enough to attract the needed numbers of people.

“This shortage narrative is industry-lobbying rhetoric,” said Steve Viscelli, an economic sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream.” “There is no shortage of truck drivers. These are just really bad jobs.”

A day spent wandering the Home Delivery World trade show inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center revealed how supply chain companies are pursuing automation and flexible staffing as antidotes to rising wages. They are eager to embrace robots as an alternative to human workers. Robots never get sick, not even in a pandemic. They never stay home to attend to their children.

A large truck painted purple and white occupied a prime position on the showroom floor. It was a driverless delivery vehicle produced by Gatik, a Silicon Valley company that is running 30 of them between distribution centers and Walmart stores in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Here was the fix to the difficulties of trucking firms in attracting and retaining drivers, said Richard Steiner, Gatik’s head of policy and communications.

“It’s not quite as appealing a profession as it once was,” he said. “We’re able to offer a solution to that trouble.”

Nearby, an Israeli start-up company, SafeMode, touted a means to limit the notoriously high turnover plaguing the trucking industry. The company has developed an app that monitors the actions of drivers — their speed, the abruptness of their braking, their fuel efficiency — while rewarding those who perform better than their peers.

The company’s founder and chief executive, Ido Levy, displayed data captured the previous day from a driver in Houston. The driver’s steady hand at the wheel had earned him an extra $8 — a cash bonus on top of the $250 he typically earns in a day.

“We really convey a success feeling every day,” Mr. Levy, 31, said. “That really encourages retention. We’re trying to make them feel that they are part of something.”

Mr. Levy conceived of the company with a professor at the M.I.T. Media Lab who tapped research on behavioral psychology and gamification (using elements of game playing to encourage participation).

So far, the SafeMode system has yielded savings of 4 percent on fuel while increasing retention by one-quarter, Mr. Levy said.

Another company, V-Track, based in Charlotte, N.C., employs a technology that is similar to SafeMode’s, also in an effort to dissuade truck drivers from switching jobs. The company places cameras in truck cabs to monitor drivers, alerting them when they are looking at their phones, driving too fast or not wearing their seatbelt.

Jim Becker, the company’s product manager, said many drivers hade come to value the cameras as a means of protecting themselves against unwarranted accusations of malfeasance.

But what is the impact on retention if drivers chafe at being surveilled?

“Frustrations about increased surveillance, especially around in-cab cameras,” are a significant source of driver lament, said Max Farrell, co-founder and chief executive of WorkHound, which gathers real-time feedback.

Several companies on the show floor catered to trucking companies facing difficulties in hiring people to staff their dispatch centers. Their solution was moving such functions to countries where wages are lower.

Lean Solutions, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., sets up call centers in Colombia and Guatemala — a response to “the labor challenge in the U.S.,” said Hunter Bell, a company sales agent.

A Kentucky start-up, NS Talent Solutions, establishes dispatch operations in Mexico, at a saving of up to 40 percent compared with the United States.

“The pandemic has helped,” said Michael Bartlett, director of sales. “The world is now comfortable with remote staffing.”

Scores of businesses promoted services that recruit and vet part-time and temporary workers, offering a way for companies to ramp up as needed without having to commit to full-time employees.

Pruuvn, a start-up in Atlanta, sells a service that allows companies to eliminate employees who recruit and conduct background checks.

“It allows you to get rid of or replace multiple individuals,” the company’s chief executive, Bryan Hobbs, said during a presentation.

Another staffing firm, Veryable of Dallas, offered a platform to pair workers such as retirees and students seeking part-time, temporary stints with supply chain companies.

Jonathan Katz, the company’s regional partnerships manager for the Southeast, described temporary staffing as the way for smaller warehouses and distribution operations that lack the money to install robots to enhance their ability to adjust to swings in demand.

A drone company, Zipline, showed video of its equipment taking off behind a Walmart in Pea Ridge, Ark., dropping items like mayonnaise and even a birthday cake into the backyards of customers’ homes. Another company, DroneUp, trumpeted plans to set up similar services at 30 Walmart stores in Arkansas, Texas and Florida by the end of the year.

But the largest companies are the most focused on deploying robots.

Locus, the manufacturer, has already outfitted 200 warehouses globally with its robots, recently expanding into Europe and Australia.

Locus says its machines are meant not to replace workers but to complement them — a way to squeeze more productivity out of the same warehouse by relieving the humans of the need to push the carts.

But the company also presents its robots as the solution to worker shortages. Unlike workers, robots can be easily scaled up and cut back, eliminating the need to hire and train temporary employees, Melissa Valentine, director of retail global accounts at Locus, said during a panel discussion.

Locus even rents out its robots, allowing customers to add them and eliminate them as needed. Locus handles the maintenance.

Robots can “solve labor issues,” said Nathan Ray, director of distribution center operations at Albertsons, the grocery chain, who previously held executive roles at Amazon and Target. “You can find a solution that’s right for your budget. There’s just so many options out there.”

As Mr. Ray acknowledged, a key impediment to the more rapid deployment of automation is fear among workers that robots are a threat to their jobs. Once they realize that the robots are there not to replace them but merely to relieve them of physically taxing jobs like pushing carts, “it gets really fun,” Mr. Ray said. “They realize it’s kind of cool.”

Workers even give robots cute nicknames, he added.

But another panelist, Bruce Dzinski, director of transportation at Party City, a chain of party supply stores, presented robots as an alternative to higher pay.

“You couldn’t get labor, so you raised your wages to try to get people,” he said. “And then everybody else raised wages.”

Robots never demand a raise.

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16 Uvalde 4th Graders Waited An Hour With Wounded Teacher

Minutes before Elsa Avila felt the pain of the bullet piercing her intestine and colon, she was motioning students away from the walls and windows.

Elsa Avila slid to her phone, terrified as she held the bleeding side of her abdomen and tried to stay calm for her students. In a text to her family that she meant to send to fellow Uvalde teachers, she wrote: “I’m shot.”

For the first time in 30 years, Avila will not be going back to school as classes resume Tuesday in the small, southwest Texas city. The start of school will look different for her, as for other survivors of the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School in which 21 people died, with an emphasis on healing, both physically and mentally. Some have opted for virtual education, others for private school. Many will return to Uvalde school district campuses, though Robb Elementary itself will never reopen.

“I’m trying to make sense of everything,” Avila said in an August interview, “but it is never going to make sense.”

A scar down her torso brings her to tears as a permanent reminder of the horror she endured with her 16 students as they waited in their classroom for an hour for help while a gunman slaughtered 19 children and two teachers in two adjoining classrooms nearby.

Minutes before she felt the sharp pain of the bullet piercing her intestine and colon, Avila was motioning students away from the walls and windows and closer to her. A student lined up by the door for recess had just told her something was going on outside: People were running — and screaming. As she slammed the classroom door so the lock would catch, her students took their well-practiced lockdown positions.

Moments later, a gunman stormed into their fourth-grade wing and began spraying bullets before ultimately making his way into rooms 111 and 112.

In room 109, Avila repeatedly texted for help, according to messages reviewed by The Associated Press. First at 11:35 a.m. in the text to her family that she says was meant for the teacher group chat. Then at 11:38 in a message to the school’s vice principal. At 11:45, she responded to a text from the school’s counselor asking if her classroom was on lockdown with: “I’m shot, send help.” And when the principal assured her that help was on the way, she replied simply: “Help.”

“Yes they are coming,” the principal wrote back at 11:48 a.m.

It’s unclear whether her messages were relayed to police. District officials did not respond to requests for comment on actions taken to communicate with law enforcement on May 24, and an attorney for then-Principal Mandy Gutierrez was not available for comment.

According to a legislative committee’s report that described a botched police response, nearly 400 local, state and federal officers stood in the hallway of the fourth-grade wing or outside the building for 77 minutes before some finally entered the adjoining classrooms and killed the gunman. Lawmakers also found a relaxed approach to lockdowns — which happened often — and security concerns, including issues with door locks. State and federal investigations into the shooting are ongoing.

The district is working to complete new security measures, and the school board in August fired the district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo. Residents say it remains unclear how — or even if — trust between the community and officials can be rebuilt, even as some call for more accountability, better police training and stricter gun safety laws.

Avila recalls hearing the ominous bursts of rapid fire, then silence, then the voices of officers in the hallway yelling, “Crossfire!” and later more officers standing nearby.

“But still nobody came to help us,” she said.

As Avila lay motionless, unable to speak loud enough to be heard, some of her students nudged and shook her. She wished for the strength to tell them she was still alive.

A light flashed into their window, but nobody identified themselves. Scared it might be the gunman, the students moved away.

“The little girls closest to me kept patting me and telling me, ‘It’s going to be OK miss. We love you miss,'” Avila said.

Finally, at 12:33 p.m. a window in her classroom broke. Officers arrived to evacuate her students — the last to be let out in the area, according to Avila.

With her remaining strength, Avila pulled herself up and helped usher students onto chairs and tables and through the window. Then, clutching her side, she told an officer she was too weak to jump herself. He came through the window to pull her out.

“I never saw my kids again. I know they climbed out the window and I could just hear them telling them, `Run, run, run!'” Avila said.

She remembers being taken to the airport, where a helicopter flew her to a San Antonio hospital. She was in and out of care until June 18.

Avila later learned that a student in her class was wounded by shrapnel to the nose and mouth but had since been released from medical care. She said other students helped their injured classmates until officers arrived.

“I am very proud of them because they were able to stay calm for a whole hour that we were in there terrified,” Avila said.

As her students prepare to return to school for the first time since that traumatic day, Avila is on the way to recovery, walking up to eight minutes at a time on the treadmill in physical therapy and going to counseling. She looks forward to teaching again someday.

Outside of a shuttered Robb Elementary, a memorial for the people killed overflows at the entrance gate. Teachers from across Texas stopped by this summer to pay their respects and reflect on what they would do in the same situation.

“If I survive, I have to make sure they survive first,” said Olga Oglin, an educator of 23 years from Dallas, her voice breaking.

“Whatever happens to a student at our school, it just happens to one of my kids,” Olgin said, adding that as the person to greet parents, students and staff at the door in the mornings, she likely would be the first person shot.

Ofelia Loyola, who teaches elementary school in San Antonio, visited with her husband, middle school teacher Raul Loyola. She was baffled at the delayed response from law enforcement, as seen on security and police video.

“They are all kids. It doesn’t matter how old they are, you protect them,” she said.

Last week, Avila and several of her students met for the end-of-year party they were unable to have in May. They played in the pool at a country club and she gave them each a bracelet with a little cross to remind them that “God was with us that day and they are not alone,” she said.

“We always talked about being kind, being respectful, taking care of each other — and they were able to do that on that day,” Avila said.

“They took care of each other. They took care of me.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Does Watching College Football on TV Have to Be So Miserable?

One of the top ESPN-to-Fox personalities is a longtime radio host named Colin Cowherd, who once noted, in an almost admirably honest interview with Bryan Curtis of The Ringer, that “in my business, being absolutely, absurdly wrong occasionally is a wonderful thing.” He also said he constantly tells one of his friends in the industry that “there’s no money in right,” and concluded a rumination about whether he’d been wrong about the subject of that day’s show — his accusation that a particular quarterback didn’t prepare enough for games — by asking, “Who cares?”

Wrong on purpose is not necessarily a bad strategy. Opinion stories are disproportionately represented at the top of news sites’ most-shared lists, and internal Facebook memos made public in the fall of 2021 revealed that the company had been rewarding outside content that users reacted to with the “angry face” emoji with better placement in news feeds. Executives and producers further emphasize characters and story lines they believe will be especially divisive: Tim Tebow, LeBron James and whether he chokes or is better than Michael Jordan, the Dallas Cowboys in general, and so on. “I was told specifically, ‘You can’t talk enough Tebow,’” the pundit Doug Gottlieb said after leaving ESPN in 2012.

Disney knows the value of a captive, excitable audience — in addition to its sports rights, it owns the Star Wars universe, Marvel comic book characters and Pixar, among other things. Disney’s profits jumped 50 percent in 2021. The financial information firm S&P Global Market Intelligence estimates that ESPN makes more than $8 a month from each of its nearly 100 million cable subscribers; it estimates that the most lucrative cable channel that doesn’t show sporting events, Fox News, makes about $2. There are 16 scheduled commercial breaks in national college football broadcasts, which can last as long as four minutes each.

Curious as to whether this feeling of oppression by a cultural monopoly might be addressed by the kind of legal remedies more typically associated with companies that make steel beams and computer software, I spoke to a University of Michigan law professor and antitrust expert named Daniel Crane.

He was open to the idea that my lengthy complaints about commercials and hot takes were evidence of “quality degradation,” that being one of the typical consequences for consumers of a monopolistic market. (The others are rising prices, diminished innovation and reduced output. Mr. Crane, for the record, says that if he’s not at a Michigan game in person he usually listens on the radio.)

But he cautioned that simply being a monopoly doesn’t mean anything has to change. “Unless you can show that they have obtained or maintained their monopoly through anticompetitive means,” he said — and despite the allegations mentioned above, no litigant or regulator has formally done that — “it’s just kind of too bad. ”

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How Texas Quashed Sex-Ed Lessons On Consent

A Newsy investigation reveals a push by organized groups to stop schools from teaching what advocates say is critical to preventing sexual assault.

Millions of students returning to public schools across Texas are encountering fallout from a battle over the state’s first major update to sex education and health standards in more than two decades. 

A Newsy investigation reveals how an advocacy group helped convince the Texas State Board of Education to strike lessons about consent from the state’s planned health education standards for the 2022-2023 school year. The board’s decision went against the advice of medical experts and organizations promoting teen sexual health, which say comprehensive sex education helps reduce rape and unwanted pregnancies. 

“It’s not an open communication — to talk about sex,” says 17-year-old Kennia Gonzales, a senior at Brownsville Early College High School in Texas. Gonzales says her high school does not teach any form of sex education beyond abstinence. “Teachers aren’t supposed to talk about it with students,” she says. 

In fact, Texas high schools are not required to offer students sex education, and if they do, parents must opt in for their children to receive it. State regulations now require those schools that choose to teach the topic to emphasize “the centrality of abstinence education in any human sexuality curriculum.” 

The state of Texas’ high hopes for convincing teens to say no to sex do not appear to be having the intended impact. A 2019 CDC survey of Texas youths showed that nearly two-thirds of high school seniors report having had sex. Texas has the ninth-highest teen birth rate in the U.S., and the state tops the nation in repeat teen births. 

Gonzales says with no sex education being taught by her school, some of her classmates are left with dangerous gaps in their understanding of healthy sex and relationships. 

“Men are taught to get what they want without the teaching of consent,” she says. “So, they’re just like, ‘She will say yes because I’m a macho man.’ And that’s how rape happens.” 

A spokesperson for the Brownsville Independent School District did not respond to multiple requests for comments about their curriculum. 

According to the 2019 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey, nearly 1 in 7 high school senior girls say they have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse. In Texas, that number is closer to 1 in 5, according to the state version of the same survey.

THE BATTLE OVER CONSENT IN TEXAS 

Records from the State Board of Education in Texas, reviewed by Newsy, tell the story of a nonprofit group named the Medical Institute for Sexual Health that played an influential role in convincing the state board to keep consent out of Texas requirements — against the advice of health experts and organizations pushing to prevent sexual violence. 

Recommendations to the state board for new standards for the 2022-2023 school year in Texas did include lessons on teaching students about consent at the seventh- and eighth-grade levels. In Texas, only middle schoolers are required to receive sex education. Educators, parents and other advocacy groups expressed to state officials their support for teaching consent. 

The Texas Medical Association and Texas Pediatric Society jointly wrote to the State Board of Education “on behalf of more than 53,000 physicians in Texas” to say they “strongly support adding new standards on boundaries and consent for physical intimacy where none previously existed.” The groups added that students should “understand affirmative consent is required in all physically intimate encounters.” 

The Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers also wrote to the board: “Consent is an extremely important part of any conversation regarding healthy relationships. We believe that it is the SBOE’s duty to include clear, informative, and meaningful definitions of consent, including examples of how a student might share their consent within relationships of any kind.” 

But according to state records, the Medical Institute for Sexual Health and more than 1,000 community members “expressed opposition to any efforts to add language discussing consent” to the state’s minimum health standards. The group also told the State Board of Education it supported “the omission of differentiated instruction on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) issues” for this school year.  

The Medical Institute for Sexual Health, a Dallas-based nonprofit founded in 1992, is an abstinence-promoting organization active in multiple states. The group distributes guidelines for sex education that, despite the group’s name, have been criticized by some in the medical community. Researchers from Columbia University, Johns Hopkins, Case Western and others wrote in the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2021 that the group’s standards were “seriously flawed from both scientific and human rights’ perspectives.” 

State records show the Medical Institute played a larger role in shaping the new standards in Texas, beyond simply filing comments. The organization’s director of science at the time is listed as serving on two of the Texas Education Agency’s working groups that drafted proposals for the new health standards. The organization’s president at the time, Lori Kuykendall, says she served on multiple working groups that worked “to craft the language” for the proposed sexual health standards. After an early draft of the middle school standards still included consent, Kuykendall spoke at a State Board of Education meeting to say that there was a “slip of consent in grade seven and eight” that remained in proposed standards. She asked the board to “not include consent.”

One of the Medical Institute’s board members, Dr. Jack Lesch, was tapped by the State Board of Education to serve as one of just six content advisers who took recommendations that came out of the working groups and drafted them into one new proposal for minimum standards for the state board to consider. He recommended the board strike teaching consent from various parts of the new standards, stating: “There are extensive references to refusal skills, safe and personal boundaries, setting limits in the SE’s. Therefore, recommend DELETE consent from the topic of decision-making.” 

Lesch also wrote to the state board to say that introducing consent is “unnecessary” and “also encourages moving toward sexual behavior that is better to delay (avoid).” State records show that some content advisers disagreed with Lesch. 

The state board ultimately said it agreed with the Medical Institute’s position on omitting LGBTQ instruction from the minimum standards for this school year. As to the Medical Institute’s request to steer clear from “any” instruction on consent, the records further note, “The SBOE agrees and has determined that sexual consent was not appropriate” in the Texas standards. The board then “took action to eliminate” a reference to consent. 

State Board of Education Chair Keven Ellis did not respond to an emailed request for comment. A spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency confirmed basic facts about the state’s standards but did not respond to requests for comment about the state board’s decision-making on the issue of consent.  

Attempts to reach Lesch, the Medical Institute’s board member, by telephone, text message and email were unsuccessful. The Medical Institute’s then-president, Lori Kuykendall, responded in writing to emailed questions. 

“Children under the age of 17 cannot legally give consent to sexual activity and should not be instructed how to,” she wrote. “If the goal is to empower children to know when they are being violated and what to do to resist, avoid, or run away from the perpetrator (and ultimately report), then it is logical they would be taught refusal or resistance skills.” 

Instead of consent, the state board adopted standards that mirrored the Medical Institute’s guidance to instruct schools to teach refusal skills and personal boundaries, and state records show they decided to teach even those only “at some grade levels.” 

“As far as I’m concerned, [consent] is one of the most important things you can be teaching,” says Shael Norris, executive director of SafeBAE, a national advocacy group working to prevent sexual violence among middle- and high-school students.   

Norris was critical of the state’s ultimate choice to teach refusal skills without also teaching consent.  

“Instead of putting the blame where it belongs on the perpetrator, the victim takes on that responsibility, and that makes them that much more vulnerable to suicide — if they are victimized and they feel responsible for it,” she says. 

There is not much academic research yet into the impact that lessons on consent would have on reducing sexual assaults, but studies show that people who have been sexually assaulted are at nearly three times greater risk of suicidal ideation or suicide attempts.  

Norris says advocates like her agree that consent lessons can be taught in an age-appropriate, nonsexual manner to children as young as in kindergarten. An example she cites is teaching a young child it is OK for them to say yes or no to hugs, high-fives or other forms of nonsexual touch. This can form a building block to teach other kinds of consent for older teenagers.  

The current leaders at the Medical Institute for Sexual Health did not respond to multiple requests for an interview, but the group’s founder and CEO, Dr. Joe McIlhaney, did answer questions in writing through a public relations firm.  

In response to questions asking if the Medical Institute would support any lessons on consent for high schoolers, or “nonsexual” consent lessons for students of any age, McIlhaney said his organization “believes that school-age children understand the meaning of ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ We believe that they should refuse sexual advances, and not wonder whether they could or should give consent at such a young age. The answer should be ‘no.'” 

The American Academy of Pediatrics, representing 67,000 pediatricians, says programs promoting abstinence have “conclusively” been shown not to work but that most comprehensive sexuality education programs studied have been shown to delay the age of intercourse and to promote “protective behaviors” like condom use. And a 2016 UN study of 48 countries found that comprehensive sexuality education leads to “the reduction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and unintended pregnancy.” 

The AAP and a host of other medical and educational authorities, such as the American Medical Association and the National Education Association, endorse teaching consent.

Crime statistics from the Texas Department of Public Safety’s 2020 report reveal the two age groups with the highest number of reported sexual assault victims in the state were 15- to 19-year-olds and 10- to 14-year-olds. Altogether, a Newsy analysis found that children and teenagers 19 and younger made up more than two-thirds of sexual assault victims in Texas. 

Melanie Ramirez, the director of prevention programs at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, a nonprofit associated with 70 rape crisis centers across Texas — and one of the groups that tried to get consent added to the new state standards — says teaching only refusal and boundary skills is outdated and harmful. 

“It’s reiterating an old notion that if you experience sexual violence, it’s somehow now your fault,” she says.  

“We’re not trying to teach, ‘Don’t get raped.’ We’re trying to teach, ‘Don’t rape.'”

A NATIONAL DEBATE 

Nationwide, 29 states require that students receive sex education, and 13 require they learn about consent, according to the Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States, or SIECUS. But the battle to change that is hitting state legislatures and local school boards across the country. Alison Macklin, a policy and advocacy director for SIECUS, says in more than 60 years her organization has never seen as many bills proposed to restrict sex education as what happened in the 2022 state legislative sessions.  

“This is the busiest we have been in tracking these types of bills,” Macklin says.   

Lessons about gender identity and consent have also inspired passionate parents and organized groups on both sides of the debate to storm into normally tranquil school board meetings. Some are calling to restrict or do away with sex education in schools altogether. 

A Miami-Dade school board meeting made national headlines in July when police were called to remove parents who disrupted the debate on whether to adopt a pair of sex-education textbooks that had references to topics like pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The high school textbook said consent “occurs when someone clearly says yes” in “words, not just body language.” The board initially voted to take the books out of the curriculum for this school year, leaving students with no sex-education curriculum, until a new round of upset parents later convinced the board to reinstate the books.  

At the Nebraska State Board of Education meeting last August, one individual upset over the proposed standards in that state appeared to threaten a Jan. 6  style insurrection, while others compared the board to Nazis because of the proposed curriculum, which included the teaching of consent. 

In Oregon, a nonprofit group called Parents’ Rights in Education, or PRIE, recently hosted its second annual summit to train parents from around the nation on how to become more politically active where they live, while trying to vote out school board members who don’t agree to keep consent and comprehensive sex education out of school curriculum. The group says on its website it was established in 2011. The group’s executive director, Suzanne Gallagher, is the former head of the Oregon Republican Party. 

“This is political,” Gallagher says. “People like to deny that. They want to think, ‘Oh, it’s just a school.’ It has everything to do with politics. We’re flipping school boards.” 

PRIE’s website says comprehensive sexual education should not be taught in schools because “teaching consent undermines any semblance of an abstinence message.” 

Her podcast website refers to literature that claims teachers who provide sex education are implementing a “Molester’s Manifesto,” while also claiming in a bullet point “1 in 10 children will experience school employee sexual misconduct.”  

Newsy traced Gallagher’s statistic to a study published by the U.S. Department of Education in 2004. The review included data from an earlier study that found that 1 in 10 students had experienced sexual harassment from educators — which included things like name-calling, spreading rumors, and inappropriate jokes. Though the author of the 2004 review recharacterized this as “sexual misconduct,” the Department of Education added a preface cautioning that misconduct and abuse were not one and the same.  

Newsy made Gallagher aware of the department’s concerns and noted her own podcast website used “misconduct” statistics to support claims about child molestation in schools. Gallagher stood by her website and, at the time of publication, it was left unchanged. 

Gallagher says she still believes students are more vulnerable to sexual abuse by teachers if they are taught it is ever OK to consent to a sexual encounter. 

“They’re going to be thinking, ‘Oh, yeah, you know, Mr. Smith, who is just a stud, he said I could,” explains Gallagher. “It’s setting students up to be accepting of sexual advances from anyone, thinking that it’s OK, it’s all right, it’s perfectly normal, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it and I have a right to it. That goes against the values of many families.”  

Gallagher says her message is cutting through at the ballot box and has, along with the work of other parents’ rights groups, helped force a changeover in school board members in Newberg, Oregon. She also points to Texas as a state where Parents’ Rights In Education is active. 

“We have a couple groups in Texas. They’re on fire there,” she says.  

Efforts to get sex education out of public schools worry Dr. M. Brett Cooper, a pediatrician who practices in Dallas and is trained specifically in adolescent health, with a master’s in education. He spoke publicly to the Texas State Board of Education on the importance of teaching consent while representing the Texas Medical Association and Texas Pediatric Society.   

Cooper says he sees firsthand as a practicing physician how common it is for parents to shy away from teaching their own children about sex.   

“Parents often come to me when they find out that their child has had sex. I ask them if they’ve talked to their child about these things before. The answer is usually no.” 

A Harvard Graduate School of Education survey of 18- to 25-year-olds found that most respondents “had never spoken with their parents about things like ‘being sure your partner wants to have sex and is comfortable doing so before having sex.'” 

Kennia Gonzales, who says she is the daughter of a teen mother, says that if schools don’t teach kids comprehensive sex education, they’re going to get it from less reputable sources, like the internet.  

“They’re going to explore, and not giving them that education isn’t going to stop them,” she says. “I want the teen pregnancy and [sexual assault] percentages to go down. I just want to see a change.” 

Zach Cusson and Meghan Sullivan contributed reporting for this story.  

Source: newsy.com

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