Liz Kleinrock, a third-grade teacher in L.A., has helped teach kids to consent with material appropriate for their age group.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 14, 2022. It has since been updated.
A third-grade teacher, Liz Kleinrock, is teaching kids about the importance of consent and it's an eye-opener for many adults as well. Liz Kleinrock teaches at Citizens of the World Charter School Silver Lake in Los Angeles and has shared visual aids she uses in her lessons about consent. People usually associate consent with sex and hence consider it inappropriate for kids to be taught about consent but Kleinrock is showing how it can be done by keeping it appropriate for the age group. Kleinrock shared the images and conversations surrounding consent on Facebook and Instagram.
Liz Kleinrock extends the consent conversation to every activity involving two or more people to help kids process the concept of consent, including asking permission to borrow a pencil. Kleinrock also uses role-playing games to help students understand consent in terms of boundaries, comfort, physical interactions, and mutual respect. This helps set an understanding of consent that they can then build on as they grow older and apply to sex, romantic relationships, and more.
While many adults are not comfortable with teaching consent to kids, Kleinrock says it serves as a guide through their life. “For a lot of adults, the idea of addressing consent with children is alarming because of the relationship between consent and sex,” wrote Kleinrock on Tolerance.org. “However, it’s important to break down the concept of consent regarding boundaries, comfort, physical interactions and mutual respect before even getting into the subjects of sex, romantic relationships, or toxic masculinity.”
Kleinrock is also aware of the importance of language and how to communicate in the affirmative or against when consent is sought. She noted that the 8-year-olds and 9-year-olds in her class used the words "No", "Stop it", “I don’t feel like it,” “Maybe later,” and “No, thank you” to decline a request for consent, and similarly, the kids used the words “Yes,” “Sure,” and "Of course” to give consent. "In elementary school classrooms, one of the first social-emotional topics covered is the importance of keeping our hands and feet to ourselves and respecting others’ personal space. In early years, teachers redirect students to use their words to express themselves when having strong feelings, rather than using physical actions to get what they want," wrote Kleinrock.
She does various exercises in class that help third-graders explore and understand consent. She also takes questions from them regarding consent such as "What if the other person says “No,” but they’re smiling?” or “What if the person wanted a hug yesterday, but doesn’t today?” Kleinrock not only answers the questions on consent but also tells them how they can react if consent is not given.
Kleinrock started teaching consent in class in the wake of discussion on sexual violence as Kavanaugh's alleged sexual assault made the news. “Everything about Kavanaugh in the news has been making me HEATED,” she wrote on social media accounts on her website, Teach and Transform. “So whenever I get frustrated about the state of our country, it inspires me to proactively teach my kids to DO BETTER. Today was all about CONSENT. We even explored the grey areas, like if someone says “yes” but their tone and body language really says “no.” Role-playing is a great way to reinforce these skills, but they MUST be taught explicitly!” She guides the conversation but always encourages students to speak up. "Students giggle and contribute ideas such as giving hugs and kisses but also state that it’s important to ask for permission when it comes to sharing and borrowing items from another person," said the third-grade teacher.
You can follow Liz Kleinrock on Instagram and her website.
If you are being subjected to sexual assault, or know of anyone who is, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673)