Jack* realizes he has to drop out of school minutes after mandatory consent classes start.
“I got up, left the classroom and started crying in the hallway,” he said.
Jack is a survivor of sexual assault and was one of several students who recently dropped out of consent education classes at a Canberra high school.
Jack initially said he was given the chance to spend some time with some of his comrades in a place known as the Quiet Room.
But after 15 minutes, teachers began asking students to return to lessons that were being run by visiting outside providers, he said.
“Teachers came in and started saying, ‘Hey, when are you coming back?'” said Jack.
The students refused, and Jack recalled that some were still in tears.
Students were then given an ultimatum to either return to class or call their parents to send them home, he said.
“Teacher come and say ‘When are you coming back? Instead of “Hey, can I come back?” Or something like that didn’t seem to be the question,” he said.
It wasn’t the content of the class that Jack and the other students had problems with, but rather how the school handled their reactions.
“It made me feel really helpless. Especially when you go through an experience like that. [of sexual assault],” He said.
He said he sat down with one teacher after the incident and felt that the situation was against the message they were being taught.
“I was sitting there crying. [saying] You shouldn’t do that,’ he said.
“To say ‘I have to go back to the triggering environment or go home’ when it can be affected is totally unkind and can do more damage to those people. .
“I truly believe that I was forced to return to that classroom.”
know who’s in class
Helen Cahill, professor emeritus at the University of Melbourne, who works with the United Nations to develop gender-based violence prevention resources, drew parallels between Jack’s case and that of a student who needs to go to the ward.
She said that being overwhelmed with content, like Jack, can be as unpredictable as a wave of nausea, requiring students to leave the classroom quickly.
“If they just went to the ward because they had a stomach attack, we need to check. What do you need to do now? What do you do? [the student] requirement? ‘ she said.
“If a student feels distress and chooses to leave the classroom, the appropriate positive approach for the school is to check in on the student.
“That check-in process is part of what we call continuity of pastoral care.”
Professor Cahill said that educating consent is a sensitive issue and requires many elements for educators to get it right with a “proactive approach”.
“First, we need teachers who know the students who teach their classes, so they know how to maintain care and generally manage safe and supportive relationships in that classroom.” said Professor Cahill.
“I have had the opportunity to research this issue with many children and young people, and what they say is, ‘We want our teachers to teach us about this topic, we want them to help us. ’ Talk about these issues.”
Cahill said it’s also important for educators to know who will be in the classroom.
“Another thing we have asked schools and teachers to be aware of is that both the perpetrator and the victim may be in the same room, in the same classroom.
Late teens most likely to experience sexual violence
Hayley Foster is CEO of Fullstop Australia, an organization that provides support, education and advocacy in the areas of sexual and domestic violence.
She was not surprised to hear about the situation Jack and his peers were facing, and agreed with Cahill’s call to provide consensual education to teachers known to the students.
She suggested that schools across Australia could recruit designated educators for the role.
“Given what we know about the prevalence of sexual violence against young people, young people between the ages of 15 and 19 are not only more likely to experience sexual violence, but also more likely to commit it.” she said.
“This person will be a safe point of contact for students seeking support, advice, or guidance.
“The foremost duty of every school is to ensure the safety of its students – not just physical safety, but also psychosocial safety.”
Ms. Foster and Professor Cahill described the ideal structure for consent education as a “whole school approach.”
“Relationship education that is full of consent and respect requires a whole-school approach.
“Everyone across the school community needs to be upskilled to respond appropriately in a trauma-based manner,” said Professor Cahill.
She said students need to have confidence in who they can count on for support, including peers she called “fellow referrals.”
Peer referrals range from being a student’s friend aware of their own experiences to schools teaching students how to react if someone shares confidential information with them.
“The more peer groups you have around your child, the better protective factors you have in place for them, and the more young people who feel unable to be in the classroom know that their teachers and peers still care. will be,” said the professor. Cahill said.
Is it possible to make consent education compulsory?
Teach Us Consent is a movement started by activist Chanel Contos who campaigned for months to secure a date finally set by the previous government to make consent education compulsory in all schools across Australia. The we.
This was no easy feat. Teach Us Consent collected tens of thousands of signatures in its campaign.
The federal government has agreed, but there is still no unified approach to what this will look like in schools.
A spokesperson for Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said the new Labor government will back this commitment and that the curriculum approved by the old government in April will be available in schools from early next year.
However, his office said that while the decision was made by the federal government, it was up to the states and territories to interpret the curriculum and decide which subjects to include materials in.
“State, Territory and non-government schools have a responsibility to ensure that all consent education is evidence-based, professionally developed and age-appropriate for children,” said a spokesperson. said the person.
Australia’s Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Agency (ACARA) said schools “could” start offering age-appropriate, consenting and respectful relationship education by 2023.
Consent education in the Australian curriculum:
- Find ways to respectfully ask, give, or deny permission when sharing possessions or personal space
- Demonstrate protective behaviors, name body parts, and rehearse help-seeking strategies to help keep them safe
- Identify and explore skills and strategies for building respectful relationships
- Practical Strategies Students Can Use When Permission Must Be Asked, Granted, or Denied
- Identify and demonstrate protective behaviors and help-seeking strategies that students can use to keep themselves and others safe
- Rehearse and refine strategies for respectfully asking, giving, and denying permission, and explaining situations in which permission is required
- Explain strategies for asking, giving, or denying consent and rehearse how to communicate intent effectively and respectfully
- Describe and apply skills and strategies for communicating assertively and respectfully when seeking, giving, or denying consent
- It explores how strategies such as communicating choices, seeking consent, giving or refusing consent, and expressing opinions and needs can help develop respectful relationships, including sexual relationships.
Jack advises schools on whether and when to introduce consent education into their curricula.
“I think schools need to be aware of people’s boundaries, and if people are brought up out of that situation, they shouldn’t put them back,” he said.
“This is a very serious topic and should be discussed, but it should also be discussed in a non-harmful way.”
*Names have been changed for anonymity.