New Proposed Bill Requires Student Education on Affirmative Consent

by Brynn Smith ‘19

In early December, delegates Ariana Kelly and Marice Morales presented a piece of legislation in the Montgomery County House Delegation that would require MCPS to educate seventh and tenth graders in health classes about the phrase “affirmative consent.”

The concept is defined as a clear and unambiguous agreement between all participants to engage in each act within the course of sexual activity. “Instead of shaming and blaming, we should be teaching,” explained delegate Morales.

The idea for the bill started when Kelly’s daughter, a seventh grader, began to notice an increase in sexual behavior amongst her peers. She discussed with her mother how the topic of affirmative consent should be taught earlier. “We really need to create a culture change, there is a tremendous amount of sexual assault happening in schools,” said Kelly. “We need to start educating our younger generations.”

While Kelly and Morales, the Montgomery County Young Democrats, and the Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County, among others, support this bill wholeheartedly, the Montgomery County Board of Education has its reservations. “All health curriculum is aligned and guided by research done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health Education Standards and the Health Education Curriculum Content Standards,” stated President of the Board, Michael Durso, in a document outlining the concerns that the Board has with the bill.

Currently, the curriculum focuses on waiting to engage in sexual activity, the harmful effects of negative peer pressure, and the possible repercussions of intercourse; specially, the posssibility of preganancy and the dangers of STDs. Kelly and Morales’ bill would change that. The Board feels as though incorporating affirmative consent into the curriculum as early as seventh grade might encourage sexual activity. However, Kelly stated that she and Morales are working with the Board to negotiate a way to integrate affirmative consent into the seventh and tenth grade syllabuses.