New guidance for educators and information for parents and students aim to give students a better understanding of consent and help prevent gender-based violence in B.C. schools.
The Ministry of Education and Child Care has released updated health guides and expanded kindergarten-to-Grade-12 curriculum resources that will support educators in teaching consent with an age-appropriate and non-discriminatory approach in the classroom.
“Schools play a vital role in supporting students to learn about healthy sexual relationships and the importance of consent in all aspects of their lives,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education and Child Care. “These expanded guides, created with input from educators, will give teachers more tools to have the important discussions around consent and gender-based violence in their classrooms. Our government is committed to improving how students are learning about consent as this is an important step in doing our part to prevent sexualized violence and non-consensual behaviour in and out of schools.”
Through discussions with students, parents and educators, the Ministry of Education and Child Care updated two teaching guides: one for elementary schools and one for secondary schools. The guides have expanded information about consent and examples of how teachers can better incorporate lessons on consent in their classroom that are tailored to the students’ age group.
In elementary school, the guides suggest that teachers integrate discussions about consent into regular interactions that students have, such as asking a friend for permission before giving a hug. When students reach middle school, the guide offers examples of how teachers can help students recognize dangerous behaviours in a relationship. These lessons are aimed at giving students a better understanding of how to establish healthy boundaries and body autonomy in all aspects of their lives and relationships.
“What students, parents and advocates have said to us during our consultations on the gender-based violence action plan is how important it is to introduce age-appropriate information and guidance for students regarding consent, healthy friendships and relationships,” said Grace Lore, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity. “We need to normalize consent, and support teachers in normalizing consent, as a part of our everyday lives and support our young people treating themselves and others safely with dignity and respect.”
Early in 2023, the Province will offer additional learning sessions through Safer Schools Together for parents and students about consent, online safety and healthy relationships.
The Province is also updating government's Erase (expect respect & a safe education) website to ensure trusted information and resources are available for students, parents and educators. Work is also underway with school districts to ensure that all students, including those in grades 11 and 12, receive consent education at school.
“We are pleased to see the province taking this important step to provide more guidance on consent education in the classroom,” said Chris Schultz-Lorentzen, president, BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils. “It is crucial for our students to learn about consent, so they can develop healthy relationships. I would like to commend the SD71 (Comox) district parent advisory council and parents across the province for their efforts to raise awareness regarding sexual violence and harassment. We are also very encouraged to see the province’s action on providing additional training and resources for parents and look forward to continuing to work with the Ministry of Education and Child Care on this important issue.”
Jennifer Fisher, chair, SD71 district parent advisory council, said: “We are pleased to see that the ministry is working with our teaching partners and subject matter experts to bring consent education into the K-12 classrooms and to implement other measures to educate students about and respond to sexual assault and harassment.”
Teaching consent from kindergarten until Grade 12 is one component of a multi-year action plan to help end gender-based violence. The action plan is being developed by the Ministry of Finance’s Gender Equity Office and the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and the B.C. government undertook engagement in 2022 to help inform the plan.
The Erase initiative is a strategy to help build safe and caring school communities. The initiative includes empowering students, parents, caregivers, educators and community partners to learn about complex issues facing students, get help with challenges and to report concerns to schools.
Kindergarten to Grade 12 Supporting Student Health Resource Guides:
Supporting Student Health – Elementary: https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/sites/curriculum.gov.bc.ca/files/pdf/subject/phe/Supporting_Student_Health_Elementary.pdf
Supporting Student Health – Secondary: https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/sites/curriculum.gov.bc.ca/files/pdf/subject/phe/Supporting_Student_Health_Secondary.pdf
Erase initiative: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/erase