U of C students teach sexual consent to teens with case law

Law students are educating teens about what consent looks like using real examples from case law involving drugs, alcohol and other murky topics.

Workshops explore where the law draws the line on sex, drugs, alcohol and implied consent

Staci Smith, left, and David Rennie are two of the law students from the University of Calgary who are teaching teens what consent looks like from a legal perspective. (Jenn Blair/CBC)

You be the judge: was it consensual or not?

That's what students and volunteers with the University of Calgary's law faculty are asking teens in a series of interactive workshops designed to get them thinking about the grey areas of sexual consent.

The presentations are being offered to students in grades 9 through 12 at nine different Calgary high schools and use real examples from past cases involving drugs, alcohol and other ethically murky topics.

"We enable them to ask questions that they might have about social situations in a way that seems less intimidating," said Staci Smith, the law student who is spearheading the project alongside Pro Bono Students Canada and the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund.

After students discuss how they would approach the case, the university students explain how the judge ruled and what reasons were presented to support the decision.

Smith said she has been surprised by the maturity and thoughtfulness exhibited by the students. 

"A lot of the questions that they ask have to do with, 'How do you know what someone is thinking? How do you know whether someone wants to engage in an activity, or doesn't want to engage?'"

Volunteers are then able to stress the importance the law places on communication and explicit consent in these kinds of situations, she said.

The response to the program has so far been extremely positive, and teachers from other schools have reached out with an interest in bringing this to their schools, Smith said. 

"I would really love to see this at every single school that we have in Calgary," she said.

"This is something that if every teenager across the globe could have access to, we would have a much stronger community, a much safer community."


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