Lessons in consent will be included in Alberta's sex-education curriculum, if school boards have their way.

The Alberta School Board Association voted in favour of lobbying the provincial government to add consent to the sex-education curriculum.

The motion, which was approved during the first day of the ASBA fall general meeting, suggests that students should learn about the legal definition of consent  "at appropriate times" during existing sex-ed classes.

Cristina Stasia

Cristina Stasia, chair of Assessing Information not Myths worries the motion will lose momentum without a clear commitment from the province. (Peter Evans (CBC))

"This means sex education should not be just covering the nuts and bolts, per se, but also the rules that are outlined in the law ... and we should not be just teaching anatomy, but we should also be teaching conduct and respect," Michael Janz, chairman of the Edmonton public school board, said of Monday's unanimous vote.  

The idea comes from Cristina Stasia, a gender scholar, and her group Accessing Information Not Myths (AIMS).

Stasia was "absolutely thrilled" the motion passed but still has concerns about implementation.  

Without a clear mandate from Alberta Education, Stasia fears the commitment will lose momentum, and individual teachers will be left to come up with their own lesson plans.

"It's not really a fair burden to place on school boards ... you're asking people without any experience in these areas to make decisions. And it also allows certain school boards to get around it. But if it's mandated, they have to do it."

Stasia started investigating the curriculum two years ago and was shocked to find consent was not being taught to Alberta students. She thinks age-appropriate lessons should begin as early as Grade 1.

Stasia taught sex-ed classes during her undergrad degree and said she had many conversations with her students about gaps in their education. She said children need to have an understanding of consent to recognize whether they have been victims of sexual assault, and to avoid unwittingly victimizing others.

"These students had no idea about the legal definition of consent ... and they were really upset that they weren't given that kind of education, and that they were taught things that were far less important, that they would never use again," said Stasia.