Several weeks ago two students tracked me down in the lunchroom and asked to speak to me about a situation that happened over the weekend. Truly, weekend parties, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other types of social media can be a real pain when they are the cause for a lot of drama at school. So, I postponed my plans and sat and listened to their problem. One girl explained that she was at a “kickback” over the weekend and was accused of sleeping with her friend’s brother. Since this rumor was now all over school, the brother’s girlfriend wanted to beat her up. I looked at the other girl and asked her if this was true and she nodded. I told both girls that I needed for them to stay in the lunchroom while I go to speak to the assistant principal about a potential fight. After a couple of minutes, I found the assistant principal and told her about the situation. She told me that she was aware of the rumor and she had spoken to the girlfriend who was very upset about her boyfriend going to this kickback. Fortunately, she had planned to speak to all three of them before the situation got out of hand.
Next, our conversation shifted to this phenomena of the kickback. Apparently, as innocent as the name sounds, it is truly not somewhere you want your 9th grader going to hang out with their friends.
The Urban Dictionary defines a kickback as…
“always hosted at an individual’s house, a kickback consists of friends getting together to engage in party activities such as drinking etc., without the hassle and drawbacks of a big party. although an invite verbal or otherwise is not necessary it is understood that a kickback is friends only and is not to exceed 20 or 30 persons. a good option for those not wishing to get their house trashed. not to be confused with a party or rager”.
In fact, I downloaded the “so called rules” for a kickback without the expletives and I put some of them in my own words. You can see the original at the web address below (Source Unidentified):
Okay, I am scratching my head at this point…
What makes a kickback so dangerous is that anything goes at these gatherings. Whether it is unprotected sex, drugs, drinking, oral sex, or multiple partners. The assistant principal went on to share that one particular 9th grader became the stud of the kickback and refuses to use a condom. He took his reputation up a notch by having sex with any female who walked in the room; therefore, his name is Dirty D&#k.
My heart sank! I thought of all of the potential pregnancies, STDs, overdoses, and rapes among these 9th graders, but I am sure there are younger students attending these gatherings as well. After speaking to the assistant principal, my next stop was to the school social worker to tell her what I had learned.
The school social worker and I have worked on many different types of cases together and there is not much that we have not experienced. I walked in her office and sat down across from her desk. After exchanging pleasantries, I began telling her the news about the activities that our young students were allegedly participating in over the weekend. Her head dropped, she shook her head, and at that point she reminded me of a similar set of circumstances that occurred in the 1990’s in a community not to too far away. This community was faced with a syphilis outbreak from illicit unsupervised sex parties. She told me that no one knew how bad the epidemic was until PBS filmed a documentary about the students, who ranged from 12-18, having unprotected sex with each other. From that group of students, over 80 became pregnant and around 200 were treated from syphilis. We both agreed that helping professionals, parents, schools, and the community, are failing to educate our families about the outcomes of these high risk behaviors. At that point, our discussion shifted to how we could effectively educate students and parents about the dangers of STD’s, unwanted pregnancies, the possibility of being charged with statutory rape, parents being charged with delinquency of a minor, and the effects of drugs and alcohol on the adolescent brain.
We came up with a initial plan that we will develop over time. Here is the plan…
1. Train and use students as Peer Educators
The National Association of Peer Program Professionals offerings multiple training and certifications in the area of peer helping and education.
NAPPP Website-training, free information, and certification.
Peer Resources Training, San Francisco, CA-Ira Sachnoff conducts a two day training in San Francisco.
Alaska Peer Education Program-example of a peer education program in action.
The Bacchus Network-Higher Education program, but a lot of great information.
Peer Power, Dr. Judith Tindall
Peer Programs, Dr. Judith Tindall
Peer helping is a valuable tool for any counseling program. In fact, Dr. Barbara Varenhorst wrote in The Peer Facilitator Quarterly that peers are one of the most under utilized resources for helping other students. In fact, there are copious studies that have provided evidence that peer helping provides the external assets that are important of healthy development in students.
The Search Institute found that adolescents need certain external and internal assets to inhibit high risk behaviors like substance abuse, sex, dropping out of school and to rebound from these crises. On this list of assets is using youth as resources.
You can download a list of the 40 Development Assets and receive free materials from the Search Institute.
CASEL found that Social/Emotional Learning reduced risky behaviors by increasing attachment to school and helping students resist negative social influences. In addition, CASEL found that there is a need for universal rather than selective approaches to prevention. Benefits of SEL:
1. Improves student positive behaviors
2. Improves student perception of school and academic performance
3. Prepares students for adulthood
Social/Emotional Learning-What is it and how does it work?
SEL Implementation Kit-How to implement SEL in your school.
2. Parent Education Workshops
Unfortunately, many parents are unaware of the consequences for hosting a unsupervised activity in their home. There are many brochures and information available to post on your website and/or provide to parents at events or workshops.
3. Counselor Education on the Culture and History of the Hookup and Prevention Strategies
Benoit Denizet-Lewis in the New York Times article, Friends, Friends With Benefits, and the Benefits of the Local Mall about the history of hooking up wrote about the evolution of the teen hookup. During the late 30’s and 40’s, teens were encouraged to have multiple dating partners. A teenager was seen as a loser if he or she was stuck at a dance with only one partner. Going steady with one person was seen as a negative social activity and the popular kids were encouraged to have a different a date each week.
World War II changed society with the media announcement of the male shortage and the desire for marriage dramatically increased. Not only did marriage increase, but courtships at an earlier age were common. Then, in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the feminist idea of relationships became popular and lasted until the early 80’s. A more conservative period emerged where going steady with one person was highly coveted (this is the era that I grew up in).
Suddenly, in the 90’s, internet happened and teens took to it like a moth to a flame. Teenagers began to use the internet as not only a hangout, but a place to meet romantic partners. The practice of the hookup was born and countless websites were created for meeting others. An online hookup includes meeting someone online (i.e. facethejury.com) and then meeting that person for a sexual encounter without any romantic ties or obligations. Now a days, many teens feel that they do not need to be in a relationship because sex is so easy to find.
Prevention Strategy Ideas for School Counselors
Here are several resources you can use to educate students, parents, staff members, and colleagues regarding risky behaviors and unsupervised activities.
She’s Too Young Discussion Guide – Hannah is a 14 year old high school freshmen who wants to be popular. In her quest for popularity, she gets more than what she bargains for.
Steubenville Rape Case -ABC news program about the sexual assault of a teenage girl at an unsupervised party in Ohio.
PBS Documentary of the 1996 Syphilis Outbreak-Documentary of the spread of syphilis in 1996 among teens in a Georgia suburb.