British Columbia students and parents call for better education in public schools on consent and sexual violence

Vancouver Island teens and their parents are concerned that the BC school system is not doing enough to educate students about consent and sexual violence and are calling on the province to take action.

About 30 students gathered outside the BC Legislative Assembly in Victoria on Sunday to protest what they say is a lack of comprehensive consent education in the current curriculum.

Their concerns are echoed by the Parent Advisory Councils of the Comox Valley School District, which are proposing resolutions to improve consent education at the annual general meeting of the Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils of British Columbia on 30 april.

Comox Valley attorney Shannon Aldinger, a mother of teenagers and a member of her local and district parent councils, told CBC on Wednesday On the island that bold action is needed given that adolescent girls aged 15-17 are most at risk of sexual violence.

Statistics Canada data shows that one in four girls and one in eight boys have been sexually assaulted before the age of 18.

“What we need is to include consent as a mandatory part of the curriculum at every level,” Aldinger said.

Students in Victoria rally outside the British Columbia Legislative Assembly on April 10 to demand more education in schools about sexual consent. Their concerns are taken up by parent advisory councils, which propose resolutions to improve consent education. (Colin Smith/Instagram/colinsmithtakespics)

According to the Ministry of Education and Child Care, the Physical Education and Health (PHE) curriculum addresses inappropriate touching and respectful behavior starting in kindergarten.

In a statement, the ministry said that in Grade 1, students learn to prevent and respond to dangerous situations, in Grade 4, they learn to lure and potential abusers, in Grade 7, they learn strategies to prevent the sexual exploitation and harm, and in grade 10 they “provide strategies” for avoiding and responding to abuse.

The ministry said it has partnered with the BC Teachers’ Federation to create support resources for teachers on sexual health and supported the development of Respectful Futures – a relationship learning resource for students. from 6th to 12th grade.

“Our curriculum offers many ways to teach consent, and a number of school boards have taken innovative and unique approaches to providing educators with tools for the subject,” said Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside, in an email.

Aldinger said the problem with these additional resources is that they aren’t very comprehensive and are taught on purpose.

She also said PHE is optional for students after grade 10, so consent education is not mandatory in upper secondary grades.

A student from Victoria is pictured outside the British Columbia Legislature on April 10. Students and parents say that while there is some consent education in BC schools, it needs to be more comprehensive and mandatory for all grades. (Colin Smith/Instagram/colinsmithtakespics)

Piper Nichols, an 11th grader at Oak Bay High School who organized the Sunday rally, said that while consent was discussed in her early high school years, the focus was mostly on “the drunken consent is not consent” and for her, that was not exhaustive enough.

“I noticed that a lot of my classmates had a hard time really recognizing what consent was,” Nichols said, speaking on Monday on On the island.

She also said the pandemic, which has made it difficult for teens to socialize, means her peers may have attended high school without being in so many situations where consent arose.

“People come into college having not experienced any of that…you just set them up to fail, you set them up to have bad experiences when you know we have the power to change that,” Nichols said. .

Aldinger said resolutions offered by Comox parents would be helpful. They include extending mandatory consent education to all high school years, establishing a provincial protocol on sexual harassment in schools, and creating policies on reporting and responding to student complaints about peer-to-peer sexual violence and data monitoring.

Nationally, the Consent Action Team at Ryerson University in Toronto also launched a campaign this week called High School Too.

It calls on school boards and governments across the country to take action to end sexual violence in schools by providing comprehensive consent education at all school levels. It also calls for the creation of a national consent awareness week.

Hundreds of students also walked out of class in Calgary on Monday morning to raise awareness about sexual violence and demand changes to their education system.

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