Comal ISD students attend STAR conference

Canyon Lake Area Students Make Strides in Educating Peers About Sexual Violence


While most students spent the weekend of June 24-26 working or playing in the Canyon Lake area as normal, these students chose to spend a weekend gaining new knowledge and skills, preparing them to share a message of healthy relationships and respect at Canyon Lake-area schools this fall. The students attended the fourth annual Students Taking Action for Respect (STAR) Conference at the Stephen F. Austin University campus in Nacogdoches.

STAR, the youth outreach and education program created by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA), incorporates positive messages directed at reducing sexual harassment and violence in schools. The STAR Program trains high school students to present workshops and organize activities dealing with sexual harassment while building an environment of respect within Texas schools. These student-Continued on p. 2

led presentations are currently traveling the state, allowing STAR participants to increase sexual violence awareness among their peers. The STAR program is so respected and admired nationally that many other states, including Pennsylvania and Louisiana, are using Texas's STAR curriculum as a base for their own youth outreach and education program.

"These students walked away from the conference empowered by what they had learned and have grown passionate about educating their friends and peers," said sponsor PC Ingraham. "The STAR Program, while offering an education in social responsibility, has also encouraged the students to seek out leadership roles among their peers and has improved their public speaking and presentation skills." The Smithson Valley High School STAR team is only one of over 30 such teams in the state.

The American Association of University Women study, Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing and Sexual Harassment in School, found that 80 percent of American schoolchildren report they have experienced sexual harassment on campus. This report, a follow-up to the group's 1993 survey, reinforces that sexual harassment has become a fact of life for students.

The innovative and nationally acclaimed STAR curriculum carries the "Speak Up. Speak Out" message of TAASA's public awareness campaign even further, bringing dialogue about sexual violence into school classrooms. Recent studies have shown that sexual assault is a top crime concern for Texans, and the efforts and hard work of STAR participants increases young Texan's awareness of this silent crime. Workshops at the conference are, in many cases, conducted by teens who have been active in the STAR program since its inception and cover topics ranging from acquaintance rape and club or date rape drugs to sexual harassment and dating violence. By the close of the conference, all attendees have amassed the skills necessary to spread their lessons learned to their peers at home.

TAASA is the statewide organization committed to ending sexual violence in Texas. TAASA is a non-profit educational and advocacy organization. As an agency, TAASA works to promote sexual assault awareness throughout the state of Texas. TAASA provides training to rape crisis personnel, law enforcement, other service agencies, community groups, and schools on topical issues related to sexual assault as well as curriculum information for sexual assault trainings. Its "Speak Up. Speak Out" public awareness campaign has since spurred a three-fold increase in hotline calls made to local crisis centers since it was unveiled in 2003.

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