It’s time we emphasize teaching about consent

Editorial Staff

Rape and sexual assault are two of the most serious issues in our society. We cannot work to “fix” the sexual assault and rape problem at the high school and college level without a proper education and subsequent understanding of it.
Last month, a 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped during school hours by two classmates in the bathroom of Rockville High School. Even prior to this horrific incident, debate and attention had turned to the education element of sexual assault, especially with regards to consent.

At CESJDS, sex education is part of the Human Development course which is mandatory for high school students. During this course, students “learn about the importance of protecting their personal health in regard to alcohol and drug abuse, lifestyle factors and risk behaviors,” according to JDS’ course offerings booklet. Additionally, the course “provides a valuable opportunity for dialogue with trusted adults about issues critical to healthy social-emotional development, maturation and responsible decision making.”

In this course, however, and in the overall school curriculum, there is an overwhelming lack of focus and education when it comes to sexual assault. Given that rape and sexual assault are most prevalent in younger people, ages 12-34, schools have an obligation to educate the student body on such a troubling issue.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a group that specializes in United States health policy, over 11 percent of high school girls in the U.S. report having been physically forced to have sexual intercourse. It only gets worse at the college level as women ages 20 to 24 experience the highest rates of dating and domestic violence.

As a means of teaching about sexual assault and consent, the Human Development course utilizes the website, which describes itself as “the ultimate resource to empower youth to prevent and and dating abuse.” While this is quite useful and a step in the right direction, there is still a lack of focus on consent itself, which is a vital concept that must be understood by all.

According to ConsentED, consent is “a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. [It] is the foundation of sex and the element that is missing in sexual violence.”

Consent and its implications need to be thoroughly taught in all schools. It is a very basic concept; however, the lack of knowledge and education on consent is one factor that contributes to the alarmingly high rates of sexual assault amongst high-school and college aged individuals. As such, we deem it vital that schools give greater emphasis the importance of consent.

In light of this lack of education, the National Sexuality Education Standards, which “aim to provide guidance on the essential minimum core content for sex-ed that is developmentally appropriate for students in grades K-12,” were established. According to the New Republic, “the standards inform educators that by the time students finish twelfth grade, they should be able to define sexual consent and explain its implications, analyze factors like how alcohol can affect one’s ability to give it, and demonstrate both effective ways to communicate personal boundaries and respect for the boundaries of others as they relate to intimacy.”

This set of guidelines sets strict yet reasonable expectations for consent education. It is vital that students, especially those moving from high school to college, know what consent is and what it means for them. Although we cannot end sexual assault, we must do all we can to work towards that goal.