Health classes at Enochs High School got some sobering information from fellow students about the pitfalls of love. The session brought fresh voices and up-to-date information to the mandatory freshman course where a 2003 textbook often falls short.
Relationships gone wrong, how to spot them early, and what positive partnerships look like were what student counselors-in-training hoped to convey to classes last week at the north Modesto campus.
“It taught me something. It opened my eyes,” said senior Mariel Salgado after hearing the second period talk.
“Many people get abused every day with relationships, every day, and don’t tell anyone,” said Dylan Roberts, summing up what he heard. But he has never seen any relationships like that, he said.
If the statistics are even close, however, he will.
One in three teens will find themselves in an unhealthy relationship, say those who track the sad totals. The most noticed are tangled romances, but tear-you-down relationships can come with family or classmates as well, student presenter Brianna Joy said.
“Just remember, it doesn’t have to be your partner. It can be friendships as well. Keep in mind, the same signs apply,” Joy told the second period group.
Joy was one of 16 students in the Healthy and Responsible Relationships Troop at Enochs that put on the trainings, all sporting bright yellow T-shirts with “#ThatsNotCool” on the front, pointing to a new website focused on adolescent relationship abuse, www.thatsnotcool.com.
I think they’re more impacted, seeing people their own age talking about this.
Jennifer Cinelli, HARRT member
All 16, along with the 60-plus Link Crew student welcome ambassadors, are studying conflict resolution with Enochs English teachers Debbie Adair and Sara Mariano, and Holly Grace Palmer, Haven Women’s Center youth services coordinator.
The plan is for the students to provide peer counseling at the Enochs Care Center next semester, helping teens navigate the sometimes drama-filled adolescent social scene.
“It’s you guys taking over the culture and creating the culture you want,” Adair told the HARRT crew.
“It’s all confidential – no judgments,” junior Meranda Garcia added. In third period, Garcia was one of a fresh four giving the presentation on spotting unhealthy relationships.
“It might be giving you the silent treatment, like, ‘You didn’t text me in five minutes. I’m not going to talk to you for three days,’ ” said sophomore Jennifer Cinelli.
Typically such relationships start with a “honeymoon period,” when all is sweetness and devotion. Then the devotion becomes annoying and tension builds – “like walking on eggshells,” the teens said. Then there is an argument or a physical fight, followed by a new, but shorter, honeymoon period. The aggressor can be a female just as easily as a male, they added.
The way we’ve gendered behavior, we’ve accepted that men will be more violent – boys will be boys.
Holly Grace Palmer, Haven Women’s Center
Disagreements as discussions. Trust. Honesty. Respect. Compromise. Individuality. Those were signs of a healthy relationship, volunteered class members.
The team took it a step further, saying healthy relationships give teens the freedom to talk about reservations about having sex or taking compromising photos, and have those views respected. The presentations included analyzing abusive aspects of two popular music videos.
“It’s really informative. It’s really good everyone knows what the warning signs are,” said freshman Vanessa Crook.
Most of the day’s audiences were freshmen, taking the required class their first semester. The HARRT team would like to see healthy relationship information become a part of every health class in all Modesto City Schools high schools.
Truth be told, it is time for a new textbook anyway.
The 12-year-old books still base nutritional teachings on the 1992 food pyramid the U.S. Department of Agriculture replaced in 2011 with a healthy plate, advising eating more fruits and vegetables. The textbook’s section on CPR teaches techniques now discouraged by Red Cross trainers, who have adopted practices proven to save more lives.
While the health book copyright might seem outdated, teachers have access to current materials.
Ginger Johnson, Modesto City Schools associate superintendent
The health course, required for graduation, covers alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse; family life; AIDS; nutrition; first aid; disease; and mental and emotional health. All are areas of social change and ongoing research not reflected in the textbook.
The text was chosen to match 2002-adopted board standards that stressed abstinence in sex education.
“Course material and instruction shall stress that pupils should refrain from sexual intercourse until they are ready for monogamous heterosexual marriage,” according to an outline of instructional goals and materials for the course provided by the district.
The male and female reproductive systems are to be explained, the outline notes, but the priority is to be learning to “Recognize and avoid situations that place one at risk of participating in sexual activity.”
Under a recent state law, teens must be also warned about sex trafficking, a predatory practice not on school radar in 2003. A nonprofit provides a program to explain the danger at Modesto high schools, said health class teacher Taya Matthews, adding, “I don’t know how else we’re going to cover that.”
For almost every topic, the district now provides supplementary materials and outside speakers, the outline shows.
Textbooks used to be retired after seven years. But the state suspended textbook adoptions throughout the recession and changing technology will bring better options, said Ginger Johnson, Modesto City Schools associate superintendent of instructional services.
“The district is currently developing their plan for digital conversion so future textbooks will be piloted with student one-to-one devices,” Johnson said via email. Digital texts for English classes will come first, with other courses to follow in coming years.