Magazine article Curriculum Review

Grades 9-12: A Look at Teaching Sexual Consent to High School Students

Magazine article Curriculum Review

Grades 9-12: A Look at Teaching Sexual Consent to High School Students

Article excerpt

The mantra of "no means no" from a generation ago, has been replaced by "yes means yes," to assure that sex is consensual (known as affirmative consent) but it's complicated, according to health education experts.

Last year, California became the first state in the nation to pass a law requiring high schoolers to learn about sexual consent. Other states are currently considering legislation, reported a recent article in U.S. News & World Report.

For example, students in Virginia's Fairfax County Public Schools will be learning about sexual consent in the fall, the Washington Post reported. Last year, the school district updated its family life education curriculum to include lessons on sexual consent and more thorough instruction on sexual assault awareness.

Although these topics are often addressed as part of freshman orientation on college campuses, there is a growing belief that the education needs to come sooner so that it becomes second nature to young people. And it's not just about teaching students to avoid being victimized; it's also about understanding consent so students don't become perpetrators either. The main federal education law, updated last year, requires high schools to report how they are teaching students about safe relationships, including consent, reported the Washington Post.

Opposing Views

Yet the sexual consent education movement has its opponents. In fact, critics say the lawmakers and advocates of affirmative sexual consent are trying to draw a sharp line in what is essentially a gray zone, particularly for children and young adults who are grappling with their first feelings of romantic attraction.

"In he-said, she-said sexual assault cases, critics of affirmative consent say the policy puts an unfair burden of proof on the accused," reported the New York Times.

"There's really no clear standard yet--what we have is a lot of ambiguity on how these standards really work in the court of law," said John F. Banzhaf III, a professor at George Washington University Law School, to the New York Times. "The standard is not logical--nobody really works that way. The problem with teaching this to high school students is that you are only going to sow more confusion. They are getting mixed messages depending where they go afterward."

Sex Education Varies

Still, it's happening. Policies regarding health and sex education vary from state to state and sometimes even district to district, said an expert on school, health and education with the American Public Health Association, to U. …

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