Considering the fact that an alarming number of high schools and colleges refuse to investigate or address campus sexual assault, it seems awfully shitty to ask high school freshmen to do so for a grade.
However, that is exactly what one biology teacher at Klein Collins High School just outside of Houston, Texas did, sending 90 high school freshman home with an assignment that included the question:
“Suzy was assaulted in an alley and is a victim of rape. The police collected a sample of sperm that was left at the crime scene and now have 3 suspects in custody. Which of the suspects raped Suzy?”
The assignment then gave the test results of a “felon” and asked students to compare the DNA samples from the suspects against it.
A representative of the Klein Independent School District says that the question was not part of any approved curriculum. Parents were understandably outraged, and the school says it as taken “corrective action.”
However, real corrective action would be to teach students that rape is generally not a man jumping out of the bushes and leaving police with a trail of clues like an episode of Law and Order: SVU, which is what this question implies.
“It’s upsetting, and I know girls this age, just the thought . . . they know that rape is forced nonconsensual sex, and that upsets them,” one parent of a tenth-grader told a local news station.
What’s so infuriating about this question, apart from its inappropriateness, is that it reflects ideas about rape that high schools and colleges still cling to despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary: that rape is something only “felons” do, while ignoring the fact that a student given the question on an assignment might currently be attending classes with their rapist.
Real corrective action would be teaching students about consent and putting structures in place for reporting sexual assault both on and off-campus in order to protect survivors as well as making sure teachers understand that, statistically, it’s highly likely a portion of their student have been sexually assaulted so that they don’t ask unnecessary and insensitive questions.