Time’s up MCPS; Health course must be revamped

By Maya Rosenberg, Editor-in-Chief

It’s only the first month of 2018, but society has already gone through a huge metamorphosis surrounding sexual assault and harassment. From the #MeToo movement to the Time’s Up initiative, celebrities and public figures are finally acknowledging sexual abuse and shedding light on assault and sexual harassment in different industries.

Despite this cultural movement, the MCPS and CHS curriculum has not caught up to the current conversation surrounding consent and sexual abuse, as MCPS’ comprehensive Health course was only last updated in 2014. Students learn about healthy relationships and abuse in the course, but other topics such as consent and sexual abuse are covered less, and not as effectively as they could be.

MCPS students are the future. In order to further the conversation regarding sexual assault, and lessen its occurrence, students must be knowledgeable about it. It is time to revamp the Health course so that it reflects the current movement of sexual assault awareness.

Students in MCPS begin taking Health in sixth grade, and take it for a quarter each year in middle school. In high school, only a singular semester of Health is required, which can be taken either over the year or during the summer.

Even though there isn’t a long amount of time spent in the Health course, its lessons are still incredibly important.

According to an Observer survey of 51 CHS students, 42 percent felt that Health was either not helpful or didn’t learn anything regarding consent, sexual abuse or healthy relationships.

This needs to change. The course can and should do more to educate CHS students.

The Health class already has the framework to be a class that is truly educational.

According to the MCPS Health Education Curriculum, the course does cover “characteristics of healthy and unhealthy romantic and/or sexual relationships” and demonstrating “effective ways to communicate personal boundaries as they relate to intimacy and sexual behaviors.”

It can go more in depth on consent, a concept that is more fluid than people realize. Consent is clear permission given for an event to occur, but that permission can be given in many different ways. Consent can be verbal, or given through body language.

According to a 2011 Center of Disease Control study, 11.8 percent of girls and 4.5 percent of boys in grades nine through 12 had experienced some form of nonconsensual sexual intercourse at some time in their life.

Some students may learn about consent through social media, conversations with their parents or conversations with their friends. Not all students will learn about it in the same way, however, which could present problems in future relationships. If Health taught about consent in clear-cut terms, all MCPS students would have a clear definition and idea of what consent means, which could help alleviate the high chance of being sexually violated.

The class should include clear definitions and examples of what consent is. This simple addition to the course could truly improve it, and help students become better prepared for any relationship or interaction they will have in their lives.

The Health course must also educate its students about sexual abuse. It is important that students are aware of what it constitutes, and what to do about it. If students are educated, they can create change.

MCPS must catch up to society in educating its students on healthy sexual relationships. It’s time to change.