Montgomery County Public Schools considering adding 'affirmative consent' to sex ed curriculum

Middle and high school students in Montgomery County may be in for a change when it comes to sex education. A new proposal would add a tool called "affirmative consent" to the curriculum and would teach students more about consent instead of conflict.

We have heard the phrase "no means no" when it comes to sexual assault. But now, Montgomery County Public Schools are one of the first school systems in the country to consider this change when it comes to teaching students about sex education.

Maryland Del. Ariana Kelly (D-Montgomery) recently spoke to other local lawmakers about a bill that would teach Montgomery County seventh and tenth grade students in the classroom more about saying "yes" when it comes to sex.

"Right now in the tenth grade, sex ed curriculum in Montgomery County, we do discuss consent and we teach largely girls, but also boys strategies for how to get out of bad situation," said Kelly. "If someone is pressuring them to engage in something they are not comfortable with - how to avoid it, how to minimize it. But what we don't teach is that people should not be pressuring other people to engage in sexual activity and [how] that's illegal and potentially could really damage their lives later on down the road."

Supporters of this proposal believe more needs to be done earlier to prevent rape.

"Sex is a consensual act between two people and we need to start teaching that to students for them to understand that when they get to college," said Michelle Ngwafon of the Montgomery County Young Democrats. "Because by the time they get to college, it's too late. Having a five-minute discussion during freshman orientation isn't going to save girls on campus."

However, the Montgomery County Board of Education is opposed to the bill, saying in part:

"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 and Standards … Based on the research and guidelines, Grade 7 health education curriculum as it related to sexual activity, focuses on waiting to engage in sexual activity, peer pressure and the potential consequences of sexual activity. At the 10th grade level, a large section of the curriculum is dedicated to sexual aggression and consent."

Meanwhile, some Montgomery County parents also wonder if middle school is the right time and place for this type of discussion.

"No because I feel like we are kind of - not exposing them - but putting too much attention on that, so I don't think it's a good idea," said parent Helen Isayas.

"There is nothing wrong with teaching something explicitly," said parent Rick Gross. "There is some value in modeling the things that we want in society. We have an opportunity to give young people a positive model. Why not take that opportunity?"

Del. Kelly said they are even looking at how to incorporate age-appropriate affirmative consent curriculum for students as young as fifth grade.