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Parents pushing B.C. to expand sexual assault, harassment and consent education

BC Confederation of Parents Advisory Councils
Parents say the province needs to provide better information for students over issues of sexual harassment and violence using tools lke the ERASE website. Screenshot, B.C. government site

Parents are urging the B.C. government to do a better job of teaching their kids about the concepts of sexual assault, harassment and consent.

The BC Confederation of Parents Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) adopted four resolutions at the end of April encouraging consent education aimed at addressing peer-to-peer sexual assault and harassment.

The resolutions include: mandatory student education about sexual assault and harassment; a mandatory province-wide policy regarding sexual harassment in schools; clear guidance on how school personnel should respond to student complaints of peer-to-peer sexual violence; and clear guidance on how school districts should collect and assess data concerning student disclosures of sexual violence.

“We have a problem that’s not going away,” said Shannon Aldinger, the Comox Valley parent and lawyer who authored the resolutions. “In fact, it may be getting worse…. It’s actually worse than we thought.”

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Aldinger cites the McCreary Centre’s BC Adolescent Health Survey from 2018 as showing how rates of sexual violence have not improved in recent decades. The survey talked to 38,000 young people, from 12 to 19, from B.C. school districts and turned up some alarming results.

The report showed dating violence and sexual harassment trending upward over the previous study in 2013, with the risk is particularly high for girls aged 15 to 17, Indigenous students, LGBTQ+ students or those with a disabilitys.

In a news release, she states the province recognized the problem of sexual violence in post-secondary education environments in 2016, and she wants to see similar action now for public school students.

“We get that there’s no quick fix for this,” Aldinger said.

The online ERASE resource for students covers many important topics for young people in the education system, but there is no option when it comes to issues like sexual harassment and violence or the importance of consent.

“When I talk to parents about this, they’re literally stunned,” she said.

Minister of Education and Child Care Jennifer Whiteside said the province is making improvements to the ERASE website, which was launched to create safe and welcoming school cultures.

“We will continue to listen to and work with our partners, including parents, teachers, experts and other ministries as we work to improve how the K-12 education system supports students and staff in all aspects of health and safety, and make changes in any way that can help prevent sexual assault, harassment and any non-consensual behavior,” she said.

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