With the recent news about the #MeToo movement and sexual misconduct allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the term “consent” has become part of the national dialogue.
It also can be confusing. So one California teacher, worried that her students may not understand the concept, created a simple chart to explain it.
Liz Kleinrock, a third-grade teacher at Citizens of the World Charter School in Los Angeles, calls her explainer “All About Consent.”
Designed for 8- and 9-year-olds, it outlines when one should ask for consent, how to recognize it and what to do if it’s denied. Kleinrock shared the chart on her Instagram feed, where it gathered a lot of attention in recent days.
“Whenever I get frustrated about the state of our country, it inspires me to proactively teach my kids to DO BETTER,” she wrote in her post. “Role playing is a great way to reinforce these skills, but they MUST be taught explicitly!”
‘Consent is important because…’
Even though Kleinrock first shared her lesson plan two weeks ago, she insists it’s something she will continue to teach.
“If you teach anything in isolation, chances are the students will not retain the information,” she told CNN. “So I will continue to build on the lesson – for example, I asked my students to show me their understanding of consent by illustrating comics.”
Kleinrock, who has a background in social and emotional learning, also had her students explain the importance of consent in a writing assignment.
“Asking for consent is important because if you don’t they might not trust you the next time you ask,” one of her students wrote.
Another wrote, “Asking for consent is important because if you didn’t, they (might) not (have) wanted to get touched.”
Even so, the topic can still confound young minds. After the first lesson, some students were left wondering if “secrets” are also something you need consent to share.
So Kleinrock created another lesson to help kids differentiate between which information you should share and which you shouldn’t.
These included the difference between hate speech and tattling, and the difference between dangerous behavior and talking about someone’s personal business, subjects that are close to the school’s policy of equality.
“The school is very supportive of my lessons,” Kleinrock said. “Social conduct is very important to the school’s policy, as well as teaching inclusion and diversity. They make sure that we teach this equally to subjects like math or writing.”
Addressing parental concerns
Some parents expressed concern that Kleinrock was teaching their young children about sex.
But Kleinrock said that even though the idea for the lesson arose from current events regarding sexual behavior, she never mentioned sex in her classes or linked consent to sex.
“In my class we have a safety network where we talk about the people we trust and to speak up if someone ever makes you feel uncomfortable. This lesson was part of that,” she said.
“We are not talking about sexual abuse – we are talking about consent. I think sometimes people have a difficult time with the subject because of the connection between consent and sex. But my goal is to teach about appropriate behavior.”
Kleinrock said she has been sharing her lessons on social media in hopes that they go beyond her classroom.
“Parents, caregivers, and educators need to build a partnership. We shouldn’t be this divisive when it comes to spreading a message that will benefit our children in the future,” she said. “Everyone should be respected no matter what.”