The New Wave of Consent Trainings
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, talk of consent and sexual assault took over the nation. We watched as powerful, well-respected men were rightfully exposed in the media for their appalling misconduct by women brave enough to tell their stories. The issue percolated rapidly through high school students across the country, prompting conversations surrounding consent. At Packer, health educators began considering how to inform students about this topic in a beneficial manner.
Several years ago, Packer began a partnership with Hallways, an organization that facilitates comprehensive consent trainings. This was the health educators’ response to a lack of consent training and information available at Packer. The head of the health department, Ms. Brandt, further explained this: “It’s better to be proactive than reactive; being reactive is never a good way to handle anything, particularly in the health realm,” she said. “What I mean by that, is having as many people being trained as possible who feel comfortable talking about issues of sexual violence, assault, and consent.”
Addressing the issue head-on with an organization like Hallways is less of a reaction to what has happened and more of an effort to ensure that an incident of sexual assault does not occur in the future. Over the last few years, the health department has worked closely with our Upper School Head, Dr. De Jesus, to create spaces for these conversations, and over twenty-five members of Packer’s faculty have undergone training to be fully equipped to handle and teach issues of sexual consent and misconduct. The Packer’s 9th and 10th-grade health curriculum will be altered to accommodate these Hallways-based lessons while 11th and 12th graders have participated in three grade-wide education sessions led by the health department already.
Another crucial shift in the health department at Packer was the decision to begin health education in kindergarten, focusing specifically on consent. The ultimate goal is for students to be as prepared as possible when dealing with this issue. By familiarizing young Packer students with the concept of saying “no” and expressing feelings of discomfort, by the time they get to high school, the hope is that these concepts will already be embedded in their brains.
Ms Brandt explained that, “our hope is that as kids move through Packer, the language surrounding consent will start to shift. It’s not about sexual consent, but you start to learn the language of ‘no I don’t feel like a hug today, or ‘I don’t want to hold your hand today,’ at the early ages of seven or eight.”
Due to the delicateness and severity of consent issues, it is crucial that these pivotal adjustments be made both at Packer and high schools across the country. Therefore organizations like Hallways are very beneficial in the improvement of rape/assault culture in schools. As students, now more than ever, feel compelled to share stories when their consent was violated, it is extremely important to have well-educated school administrators and teachers who can handle these situations and identify where to place accountability.