- With the support of students, the state of Maryland recently enacted a law introduced by Democrat Ariana Kelly that would require the inclusion of information about consent in sex education classes. The law defines consent as "the unambiguous and voluntary agreement between all participants in each physical act within the course of interpersonal relationships," NPR reports.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 8% of girls and .7% of boys experience rape or attempted rape before they turn 18; yet fewer than a dozen states mention healthy relationships, sexual assault, or consent in their sex education programs.
- The influence of the #MeToo movement is changing the discussion and six states, including Maryland, have introduced bills requiring the teaching of consent this year alone. However, opposing voices on both sides of the aisle have slowed approval in some states because, they argue that explaining consent implies a condoning of sex or that the topic should be discussed by families, not by schools.
According to Advocates for Youth, roughly 46% of all high school students in the U.S. and 62% of seniors in high school have already had sex. However, only 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education in schools and only eight states and the District of Columbia require mention of sexual assault or consent in these programs.
However, the discussion of consent does not have to be mandated or limited to sex education classrooms. Most students are likely aware of the ongoing public discussion about consent and the #MeToo movement. The discussion is in entertainment news and the confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court. At its root, the discussion is about respect for oneself and others, a discussion that is worthwhile in any context.
The legal issues related to sexual activity connect to discussions of civics and current events. Teaching about sexual harassment also has a role in the teaching of soft skills for future employment. As students are made aware of the laws concerning consent and sexual harassment, schools also need to be prepared to deal with the reporting of such issues. The Chicago Public Schools, for example, has faced allegations that officials didn't do enough to protect students from sexual violence and earlier this year, created a new Office of Student Protections and Title IX to better respond to complaints. School and district leaders may also want to have similar discussions with teachers to prevent allegations against them as well.