Written by: Carolyn Bridgeman on behalf of the High School Too movement
High school and university students from across Canada are working hard to address sexual violence in our schools.
The High School Too movement advocates for policy, protocol, and education change so that all high schools can be places where consent comes first. Our work has been highlighted and celebrated in the Toronto Star, CBC, and CTV. In April, we launched our 10-part platform to address and prevent sexual violence in high schools. Today, we are writing to you to ask for your support in declaring National Consent Awareness Week during the week of September 19th – 23rd.
Why the third week of September? The first six weeks of school are called the Red Zone, where there is an increase in sexual assault in schools. Implementing the National Consent Awareness Week includes grade assemblies, in-class workshops, embedded class activities, and after-school presentations on sexual violence and consent for non-student participants (e.g., parents, guardians).
Sexual violence against high school students is a massive problem in Canada, with 1 in 7 girls saying another student has sexually assaulted them. While we applaud the attention and resources that have been placed on sexual violence in colleges and universities in recent years, the same attention is vitally needed for high schools. Research shows that 15% of girls and 9% of boys between the ages of 14 to 21 have had a sexual act forced upon them by a peer, including oral sex or being forced to touch someone sexually (Taylor et al., 2019). Moreover, in a school climate survey, many 2SLGBTQIA+ students (58%) identified being sexually harassed in the past year and 13% reported that this harassment occurred often or frequently (Kosciw et al., 2020).
Most importantly, only 28% of Canadians fully understand giving consent (Canadian Women’s Foundation). It is evident from these statistics that there is not enough prevention, support and response regarding sexual harassment and sexual violence for high school students across Canada. Given the current circumstances, we must address the concerns of high school students and their supporters across Canada regarding sexual violence support and education in high schools.
One of the key ways to address this substantial public health issue is to promote understanding of consent in all interactions. The inaugural Consent Awareness Week during the third week of September would allow students, employees, and families to engage in education initiatives to understand and navigate conversations around boundaries and empathize in all relationships with our friends, family, and community members. We call for a week of learning to foster a culture of consent in schools through programming, events, and discussions involving faculty, staff, consent education experts, and students. This will be a time to apply, engage, and educate students on consent, student rights, and the school’s sexual violence policies.
Students deserve a safe, inclusive, and accepting school environment to flourish in their learning, well-being, and growth. Help affirm our right to be safe by supporting our call to declare the third week of September as Consent Awareness Week at high schools across Canada. Let’s ensure that all schools, including high schools, can be where consent comes first.
You can support our call and find out how else to take action with the High School Too movement here.
Suggested Citation: Bridgeman, Carolyn. (2022, May). High School Too Needs You! Implementing a National Consent Awareness Week. Courage to Act. www.couragetoact.ca/blog/high-school-too-needs-you