Kamloops school district thinks teaching consent at an early age could help prevent sexual misconduct in schools | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops school district thinks teaching consent at an early age could help prevent sexual misconduct in schools

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KAMLOOPS - School district officials plan to review current education programs to provide a more enhanced curriculum to teach students as young as six years old about consent and how to have healthy relationships.

Earlier this month, Kamloops-Thompson School District superintendent Alison Sidow released her task force recommendations on student safety to better address incidents of sexual misconduct within schools. 

The recommendations followed after two female students came forward to school officials in January about separate incidents involving inappropriate touching. The incidents sparked media attention across the province after the families of the students complained about the way school administration handled the allegations.

Sidow says the task force realized there was a lack of policy around sexual misconduct within schools.

“We need to have a discrete policy on sexual misconduct because we have lots of policies to deal with for instance, harassment, bullying, violence but we have nothing that specifically talks about sexual misconduct,” she says. “We need to give our principals more clear guidance and staff, much more clear guidelines about what you do when a student comes forward."

The 12-page task force report says by creating more awareness and providing more education to students about sexual misconduct, the better students will understand what constitutes inappropriate behaviour.

“I think what we learned through this is we need to start education earlier around healthy relationships, appropriate boundaries and consent education so that students are getting it consistently over a period of time," Sidow says.

Starting next year, school district staff will begin to review current educational programs to provide a more detailed curriculum around consent and healthy sexual relationships, so students at a young elementary level are being informed and educated.

“I think even in Grade 1. You know in Kindergarten we talk about what’s a friend, how to be a good friend and so as we move through the grades, by the time you’re in high school or entering high school we can talk about what does healthy sexual relationship look like,” she says, adding the school plans to work in partnership with parents to develop age-appropriate information.

“We want to do that in partnership with parents because as you know there are different morals and values parents have so this always must be done while being sensitive to the perspective of families and our community.”

Sidow explains through more dialogue and education in schools, the easier it will become for students to come forward if they experience sexual misconduct in schools.

“Children need information. They are exposed to images of sexual misconduct through games, through media and we need to combat that with really strong messages about what healthy relationships do look like,” she says. "Those are conversations we shouldn't be afraid to have and I think of what we have learned from this experience is that children need more information, not less.”

The recommendations will look to address the different types of sexual misconduct behaviours that occur frequently in schools.

“The kinds of behaviours that we see in the schools look like sharing explicit images through social media, it might look like catcalling, it might look like inappropriate touching or unwanted touching in the hallway,” she says.

The incidents involving two female students in January was a difficult period for the families involved and for the district, Sidow says, but she believes they have helped to shed light on an important issuing affecting young women and girls in schools.

“I think there is a positive outcome in that there is now greater awareness around this issue across our community and amongst our staff,” Sidow says. “I would never wish this on anyone, but at the same time I’m thankful those young women have strong enough voices to share their stories because I think we will better off as a result.''

As the school breaks for the summer, Sidow says she will begin to develop a plan to implement the recommendations over July and August.

“I am going to create an implementation plan; so when we will look at policies, who and what teams will look at education and how will we gather, how will we communicate our findings to the board and to families and parents,” she says. “I will develop that implementation plan this summer and we will begin implementing it in the fall.’'

For the full report on the superintendent’s task force recommendations on student safety, go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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