Should We Teach About Consent In K-12? Brett Kavanaugh's Home State Says Yes More states are requiring that children learn about consent and healthy relationships, and students themselves are among those pushing for change.
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Should We Teach About Consent In K-12? Brett Kavanaugh's Home State Says Yes

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Should We Teach About Consent In K-12? Brett Kavanaugh's Home State Says Yes

Should We Teach About Consent In K-12? Brett Kavanaugh's Home State Says Yes

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A warning that this next story may not be suitable for some listeners. It is about how and when boys and girls understand how to give consent when engaging in sexual activity. Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that before the age of 18, about 8 percent of girls and 0.7 percent of boys experience rape or attempted rape. Few schools across the country are required to teach about consent. That is starting to change, as NPR's Anya Kamenetz reports.

ANYA KAMENETZ, BYLINE: When the "Access Hollywood" tape of Donald Trump hit the news in late 2016, a middle school student in Maryland named Maeve Sanford-Kelly was listening.

MAEVE SANFORD-KELLY: My friends and myself - we were all talking about this a lot. And then I started talking to my mom about it, and I was really distraught about the general situation.

KAMENETZ: Her mother, Ariana Kelly, had an idea that might help. Ariana Kelly is a delegate in the Maryland legislature, and she introduced a bill that required the state to include consent in sex ed classes.

ARIANA KELLY: The law defines consent as the unambiguous and voluntary agreement between all participants in each physical act within the course of interpersonal relationships.

KAMENETZ: Maeve campaigned and testified in favor of the bill.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MAEVE: Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the delegation. My name is Maeve Sanford-Kelly, and I go to North Bethesda Middle School. I'm here to talk about including consent in the sex ed curriculum because it's extremely important.

KAMENETZ: Currently under a dozen states mention the term sexual assault, consent or even healthy relationships in their sex education programs. But with the #MeToo movement, that may be changing. Since the beginning of 2018, six states including Maryland have introduced or passed bills to require the teaching of consent in sex ed. Some of those bills have been controversial with some arguing that talking about consent is tantamount to condoning sex.

It doesn't have to be that way, says Amy Tiemann. She's a neuroscientist and educator who works with Kidpower, a child safety education group. She says the message of respect for others and your own body can be made simple and empowering even for young children.

AMY TIEMANN: They can be 3 years old. They can be 15 years old. They can be in college. And we don't know who might be a potential perpetrator or who might be a potential victim someday. And people can be both.

KAMENETZ: In Maryland, the law passed on a second try last year. Schools in Montgomery County, were Maeve is now a freshman in high school, are teaching about consent already. Maeve and her mother both see reasons to hope for change in this generation. Ariana Kelly says she's found it especially heartwarming to see teenage boys speak up about this issue.

KELLY: When we had the first hearing on this bill, all these teenage boys showed up. And they were talking about this issue just as much and just as passionately. And that just warmed my heart.

MATT POST: If anything is going to change, guys cannot relegate themselves to the sidelines on this issue.

KAMENETZ: At age 16, Matt Post campaigned for Maryland's consent law.

POST: Ending misogyny starts with us ultimately today.

KAMENETZ: Today he is a first-year student at Yale. He says that while things have improved, many of his peers have gaps in their understanding.

POST: They don't understand the ongoing nature of consent. They don't understand that a incapacitated yes is not really a yes.

KAMENETZ: He hopes better education starting as young as kindergarten can help. Anya Kamenetz, NPR News.

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