Agencies helping sexual assault victims applaud the move to include teaching students about consent in Alberta’s new elementary curriculum.
On Monday, the province released the curriculum draft for kindergarten to Grade 6 which includes a renewed focus to literacy, numeracy, citizenship and practical skills. One of those practical skills is learning about healthy relationships and the importance of consent.
The Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre has been offering its No Secrets and iRespect program to schools for about seven years, and executive director Patricia Arango said making consent part of the curriculum will help open more classroom doors.
“It’s a good thing to help us reach out to more schools and more kids. I think it will definitely help the safety of kids,” Arango said.
She said some teachers have been concerned that the focus is only on sexual consent. But young students are learning about consent in general, like whether or not they consent to someone using their book. As students get older, discussion progresses to dating relationships and sexual consent.
Many schools with Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, Red Deer Public Schools, Chinook’s Edge School Division and Wolf Creek Public Schools, and other jurisdictions in central Alberta have accessed the No Secrets and iRespect programs.
Arango said it’s important for students learn that it’s acceptable to say no.
“It’s your right. Your body is your body, and nobody has the right to touch it without your permission,” Arango said.
Mark Jones, executive director of the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, said teaching children about boundaries is an important life skill.
“This is probably one of the most essential skills we can give our young people, not just to give them tools and confidence around sexual abuse, but in general,” Jones said.
“I think it’s outstanding,” he said about consent education.
The advocacy centre provides support and treatment to children, youth and their families, and also helps educate school staff.
Sheldon Kennedy, who helped raise money for money for the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, called the curriculum’s age-appropriate education on consent groundbreaking.
“The ability to say no, the ability to say yes, the ability to understand boundaries, in my opinion, are not only going to keep kids safe but it’s going to save lives,” said Kennedy, an abuse survivor and co-founder of Respect Group.
He said many kids know their abuser and many victims are under 12 years old in the abuse cases that come to Calgary Child Advocacy Centre.
“The biggest thing kids tell us when they are disclosing something that’s happen to them is that they just didn’t know. They didn’t know they could say no.”