IRVINE : Schools OK Program on Sexual Assault

Over the objections of board President Tom Burnham, Irvine Unified School District trustees have approved a program for middle-school students on preventing sexual assault. Burnham said some of the material is inappropriate for seventh-graders.

"I was thinking about my own seventh-grade son," said Burnham, the only trustee to vote against the program. "I would hope his first discussion about dating is not about date rape."

Burnham said that the program's overall goals are laudable, but that discussions of date rape should wait until eighth grade.

The prevention program will be presented by Community Service Programs, a 14-year-old organization that assists assault victims and families. Burnham made a motion to limit the program to eighth-graders but was not supported by the other four school board members.

Trustee Margie Wakeham said seventh-graders can end up in compromising situations when parents are not at home.

"They don't have to have a car to go on a date," Wakeham said. "This program will give them tools to handle those situations that parents can't control. Kids are much more knowledgeable than we give them credit for."

The program was approved by members of the district's health advisory committee, except one who suggested limiting the presentation to eighth-graders.

District health officials say statistics show that 62% of all sexual assault victims are under age 18 and that one in three women and one in 10 men will be sexually assaulted during their lifetimes.

Student participation in the program will be optional, with parental permission required. District officials say they will consider videotaping the presentation to give parents an opportunity to preview it.

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