School trustees to consider including consent in sex ed curriculum

Trustees with Edmonton’s Public School Board will consider whether students should learn what constitutes consent as part of sex education class.

'Like teaching driver’s ed ... without ever teaching them the rules of the road'

Orville Chubb, Edmonton Public School Board Trustee, will present a notice of motion about including sexual consent as part of the school curriculum on Feb.17. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Trustees with Edmonton’s Public School Board will consider whether students should learn what constitutes consent as part of sex education class.

Ward C trustee Orville Chubb will introduce a motion at next week’s school board meeting asking if the board should recommend Alberta’s education minister include information on consent as part of the provincial curriculum.

"This is the missing link, in my opinion, in what makes a complete rounded, informed student about sexual activity," he said. 

The idea comes from Cristina Stasia, a lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Alberta, and her group Accessing Information Not Myths (AIMS).

"Consent is an informed sober enthusiastic yes to each step of sexual activity," says Cristina Stasia, chair of Assessing Information not Myths. (Peter Evans (CBC))
“[It’s] kind of like teaching driver’s ed ... without ever teaching them the rules of the road,” Stasia said.

“It’s really important that students not only receive sex ed and information about healthy relationships, but that they learn how to identify stop signs, yield signs and a green light.”

She said it was an oversight that kids are not taught the information now, and that age-appropriate lessons on identifying consent should begin as early as Grade One.

Stasia said children need to have an understanding of consent to recognize if they have been victims of sexual assault.

“Kids need to know that they have a right to say no to hugging or kissing or touching by relatives and others,” she said.

It is an idea that has gained traction in other provinces. Last month, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne said students should begin learning facial expressions and other aspects of consent in grade school.

Students CBC spoke with on Thursday said they learned nothing about consent when they were students at Edmonton public. 

"All we were taught is what sex is and how you cannot get pregnant," said Noa Yevtushekno, a first year student at the University of Alberta. 

Stasia started AIMS last year after hearing frustrations from her university-aged students about the gaps in their sex education.

She investigated the Alberta curriculum and said she was shocked to find consent was not being taught to students. She worries that uninformed students might unwittingly break laws, such as those surrounding alcohol.

“If kids don’t know what the legal meaning of consent is, how will they know if what they are doing violates [that]?”

Chubb’s motion will be debated at the public school board’s next meeting on Feb. 17.

With files from CBC's Trisha Estabrooks


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