We Are Failing Our Kids: A Wake-Up Call.
From a retired public-school teacher with 35 years of experience.
Photo: Duy Pham - Unsplash
For several years I have been following the evidence of rape culture* in our public schools in British Columbia. The evidence is being mostly revealed by female secondary students and they have gone public; holding protests outside their high schools and demanding meetings with school board officials. In 2022, several protests and at least one petition were reported in local media.
Parents are also involved. The Parent Advisory Committee (PAC), in the Comox Valley school district drafted comprehensive resolutions to the 2022 British Columbia Parent Advisory Council (BCPAC) convention to address the ongoing sexual harassment and abuse experienced by female students in high schools. The Comox PAC realized that this serious issue needed to be addressed at all levels of the education system; the Ministry, districts, schools, and the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation (BCTF). Their resolutions at the BCCPAC carried almost unanimously – it appears that nothing has happened since.
The sexual attack of a grade 7 girl by grade 8 boys on the playground of her Victoria school was reported in the
Times Colonist. The article describes how at every level this child was betrayed. School employees, the police, the school district, all seemed to lack the knowledge or have the processes in place to deal with the sexual attack of a child at school. The girl’s parents were left to figure out what to do to support their child and to get her justice. They have confronted all who were involved and demanded answers and action – it’s unclear if there will be a satisfactory resolution. The attack left the girl traumatized. It should shock us all. Something is seriously wrong. It must be addressed.
Children are being exposed to and influenced by pornography at younger and younger ages. Teachers in elementary schools are aware but aren't equipped to deal with the issue. One elementary teacher commented.
One of my great concerns about the socialization of boys and girls today is the impact of pornography on their developing brains. I see evidence of porn culture in the classroom often, and it's really disturbing. I think many
kids don't even know what they're joking and laughing about, but it's far more adult than what my peers and I were exposed to at the same age.
Sex Ed, as we knew it, has taken second place to the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum. Notably -- there is no mandatory curriculum that deals with pornography, rape culture, healthy sexual behaviour, or responsible sexual relations.
The issue of consent is not understood. The coercion in sexual power relations and lack of sexual knowledge, beyond what kids are watching on porn, makes it impossible for consent to be the determinant of whether sexual activity is freely given or coercively obtained. The behaviour described by the protesting female students reveal abuse and coercion is what they are experiencing. No one is stopping it.
Pornography, social media, cell phone use, bullying, rape culture, and the confusion some students experience with the concept of identity as promoted in the SOGI curriculum, all contribute to an unhealthy and even dangerous sexual environment.
It’s clear our public schools are not prepared to deal with what is an increasingly problematic rape culture developing across all age groups.
We are failing our children by not equipping them with the information and emotional strength to protect themselves. We are failing by not providing the age-appropriate curriculum to address serious social issues regarding sexuality. And we fail them by not putting in place policies, procedures, and protocols to be used to address student concerns and reports of sexual harassment and abuse in our schools.
The Ministry of Education, school districts, the BCTF, and teacher training institutions must provide teachers with the knowledge, training, tools, and confidence to tackle the hard issues that today’s kids are confronting.
Share this article with your friends and family. Write a letter to your local paper, and post it on your social networks, if you use them. Mail this article to your local School Board, the Minister of Education, and your MLA with a cover letter of your own. Copy the Premier. Ask for a meeting with your MLA. If you are a teacher, or a parent, raise this issue and call to action with your staff and/or Parent Advisory Committee. Lobby the BCTF to develop an action plan to address rape culture in our schools.
Links to media reporting about rape culture in our schools:
* Rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm. In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life and inevitable. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.