Lessons about sexual consent may be added to the high school sexual education curriculum in Virginia.
A bill passed last month by the Virginia General Assembly requires the addition of "age-appropriate" information on consent to the Family Life Education curriculum taught in high schools. Students would be taught how to determine if someone is giving permission to engage in sex.
If young people don't get any lessons on consent until they go to college, it's too late, said Fairfax County Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, who introduced the legislation.
“If the first time our students are hearing about what’s appropriate is at college orientation, then we’ve really missed the boat, and it’s too late," she said.
She said House Bill 2257 is aimed at stopping sexual violence.
“This is an issue that has been very important to me as a mom, not just as a legislator, for years and years," she said in an interview.
A coordinator in Fairfax County schools' health, family life and physical education department said explaining consent to students is a must.
“The CDC put out information a couple of years ago when we started this conversation in our community about implementing this, that 1in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Liz Payne said.
Lessons about consent would be introduced statewide in the context of discussion of healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Filler-Corn's bill on teaching students about healthy relationships passed last year and is now law.
In 2015, California became the first state in the country to require that school districts add information on sexual consent to their health lessons.
In Fairfax County, discussion of consent begins in 10th grade. By the time students are in 12th grade, government teachers take over the subject and educate students about legal ramifications.
Filler-Corn responded to the idea that discussions of sex are best done at home, not in the classroom. She agreed.
“Yeah that makes a lot of sense, but they’re not all learning that at home," she said.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe is expected to sign the bill into law.
Families and entire jurisdictions in the state would be able to opt out of the lessons. In Fairfax County, parents already have that option.