“[Consent is the] permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.” - Oxford Dictionary
Everytime you read or watch the news, chances are you will hear a horrific story about sexual violence (assault, harassment, rape, emotional abuse). Sexual violence is a rising problem across our country (and around the world). You can read more about this on the Canadian Women’s Foundation website. There has also been ongoing discussion over the past few years about the issues about sexual violence on Canadian post-secondary campuses.
Consent is a very basic, explicit concept that can be taught from a very young age. To instill a sense of respect, and being able to understand and communicate boundaries at a young age is an essential part of a proactive, rather than reactive, measure to combat (sexual) violence.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the re-implementation of the 1998 health curriculum in Ontario is the absence of any explicit reference to consent.
As I continue to read (and reread) the 1998 sexual health strand of the Ontario curriculum, it becomes progressively apparent how this curriculum lacks the depth it requires to meet the needs of 21st century learners - the depth and robustness that is found in the 2015 curriculum.
When you look through the 1998 curriculum, this is as close as you’ll get to finding roundabout learning expectations (i.e. specific expectations) about consent:
Grade 4: “Identify the characteristics of healthy relationships (e.g., showing consideration of others’ feelings by avoiding negative communication)”
Grade 6: “Identify strategies to deal positively with stress and pressures that result from relationships with family and friends”
Grade 7: “Use effective communication skills (e.g., refusal skills, active listening) to deal with various relationships and situations”
which is definitely better than nothing, but is not as explicit and direct as the learning expectations from the 2015 curriculum:
We need to have conversations about consent with students starting in kindergarten. I don’t suggest starting to talk about consent with grade 1 students in the same way you’d talk to a grade 12 students, but there are ways to scaffold:
Primary grades (1-3)
Intermediate & Senior (7-12)
Having specific lessons about consent is helpful (such as this lesson plan I created for grade 3-12 students about effective communication skills), but I also encourage you have these conversations as they come up. You’ll notice students trying to hug each other when it’s clear it is unwanted, or hear students talking in the hallway about their new partner. Don’t be afraid to introduce the concept of consent in these situations as they will be personally relevant to your students, and will resonate with their real life experiences.
There are some amazing resources online you can share with your students or use to plan your lessons about consent:
Consent for Kids (YouTube video)
No Means No (Picture Book)
My Body Says What Goes (Picture Book)
Create a poster in your classroom about appropriate consensual behaviour
Consent Tea (YouTube video)
All About Consent (Planned Parenthood)
How To Talk About Consent (Planned Parenthood)
Ask. Listen. Respect (YouTube Video)
Dancing, Project Consent (YouTube video - cartoon graphic content)
Teaching Sexual Health, Consent (website)
Sex And U: What is Consent?
5 Ways To Teach Your Children About Consent (Huffington Post)