Should consent education be compulsory in schools?

Specialist sexual violence prevention organisation, Sexual Abuse Prevention Network (SAPN) supports calls from secondary school students for compulsory consent education in schools.

Widely publicised incidents in Wellington schools during the past week prompted calls from secondary school students for compulsory consent education. Wellington secondary school students led a march to parliament last week to demand the education and a petition has been launched on online campaign platform, Action Station.

“We’ve heard what the young people are saying and we absolutely support their demand. It is essential that we teach young people about consent and healthy relationships. Who knows better what young people need than young people themselves?” says SAPN spokesman, Fiona McNamara.

The network specialises in providing education to young people that teaches young people to recognise the signs of abusive relationships and promotes healthy relationships and consent. It delivers several courses in the Wellington region, including  “Who are You?”  and ACC’s “Mates and Dates”. However, the network says that its capacity to be delivering in all schools is currently stretched due to insecure resourcing, and that other specialist providers throughout the country are in the same position.

“The government needs to make consent education a priority and fund the delivery of effective specialist programmes accordingly” says Ms McNamara. 

All young people would benefit from access to education about healthy relationships. “We need programmes to be in every year level in every school. It is important that students receive this education each year at school. We are talking about cultural overhaul – this is not a quick fix where we see behavioural and attitude change after one lesson. Messages that promote healthy positive sexuality need to be reinforced throughout a students’ experience at high school. Additionally, it is important that specialist training and support is also available to teachers to support their ability to reinforce the messages and respond appropriately when issues arise.”

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