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Consent Comprehension: How does Payton measure up?

Illustration by Alessandra Torres

Paw Print Staff Editorial

As 2019 starts to fully take shape, we find ourselves in the month of February: the season of love. Now more than any other time during the year, we are reminded that relationships should be acknowledged and celebrated. But one subject that rarely gets brought up during sweetheart season is just how relationships should be established. The rom-coms that serve as the cornerstone of cupid’s grasp glorify chance encounters and completely gloss over the one item that should be at the foundation of every relationship.

Consent is something akin to the famous 1964 quote from Justice Stewart: “you know it when you see it.” Consent is something that in our high school occurs every day, all around us, in the atrium, under the stairs, nestled in the bookshelves of the library, behind the closed door of the all-gender bathroom. But consent is also something else: nebulous. To help clear up the confusion, the Paw Print staff has created a list of what consent should be.  

Consent should be verbal and clearly non-verbal and never assumed (see illustration). It should always happen when a person is sober and able to make informed choices. Consent should be isolated, just because someone says “yes” to one thing doesn’t mean they have agreed to everything. Consent should be revocable: situations change, and with them, consent should change too.

As Valentine’s Day came into view, the Paw Print staff realized that this topic has become all the more poignant for our Payton community after negative experiences with several former faculty members. While our administration has implemented new safeguards for students such as student incident reports, the root cause has failed to be addressed. We need consistent consent education for students and teachers.  

We currently have very limited consent education, with the topic being lightly covered freshman year; from there students are left to their own devices and often fail to remember arguably the most important lesson taught in high school: what consent looks like in the twenty-first century. While good things happen in our community most of the time, a comprehensive consent education is vital to maintaining an environment that is socially and emotionally healthy.

Students oftentimes try to fill the gap in their peers’ education with enrichments and seminars, but more often than not, the upperclassmen who are a part of these consent conversations aren’t the ones who need to be.

Consent education should be compulsory for each grade level. As one Paw Print staff member said, “If we learn about math every year, we should learn about sex every year.” We should be defining what consent looks like, in the classroom and in the hallways perpetually, instead of having a singular conversation about it and then moving on. We should have mandatory enrichments at least once a year for every student to go over consent and all of its implications.

This continual education would keep consent from being a nebulous enigma for Payton students and make consent as ubiquitous as the four Cs, a true part of the Payton fabric.

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