Usually, when we discuss sex education classes in public schools, controversy arises because it’s either not taught at all or it’s taught very poorly. Think abstinence-only sex education — which is hardly educational at all.
It’s not very different in Canada. Emily Dawson, a recent graduate from Edmonton, Alberta, took mandatory sex education classes at her high school and was shocked by what she heard:
… Emily texted her [mother Kathy] to say the “sex ed” class was being taught by an anti-abortion activist, from the American-based Pregnancy Care Centre.
“She did a lot of slut-shaming to the women, and pointed out the guys as horn-dogs,” Emily says. “She really ridiculed single-parent families, she made it sound like they all give birth to juvenile delinquents.”
One classmate, Emily claims, asked about same-sex relationships.
“All those questions were shut down right way. She just said, ‘We’re not here to discuss that.’”
The Dawsons’ complaints allege the presenter taught students that 60 per cent of boys carry the HPV sexually transmitted infection under their fingernails, that gonorrhea can kill you in three days, that girls should dress modestly to avoid inflaming boys. The allegations have not been proven.
The complaint being referenced is one Dawson and her mother are filing with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. They’re arguing that the school district’s use of a Christian abstinence-only sex ed program “infringed upon their rights as non-Christians.”
Meanwhile, the Edmonton Public School District stands by the lessons. Two school board members said they attended a separate presentation by the group and found no reason to be worried, but the Dawsons believe that’s because they heard a sanitized version of what was being told to the students.
If you visit the Pregnancy Care Centre’s website, it’s pretty obvious we’re talking about a group that’s not qualified to be sending out people to teach sex ed classes. It’s anti-abortion and pro-abstinence, which is fine if you want them speaking at Sunday School, but the organization seems incapable of providing factual, comprehensive information to students and parents who don’t see premarital sex as a sin and who want to know more about safe sex. Their own objectives make no direct references to contraception, birth control, condoms, etc. It’s just abstinence and fear, all around.
It’s a fascinating approach to have a student and parent argue that not receiving that information constitutes a human rights violation. But they have a point, and it’s only strengthened by the fact that the district never told Kathy the course content ahead of time (before she signed the consent forms for her daughter) and wouldn’t allow Emily to drop the class without her grade suffering as a result. The Dawsons are incredibly brave to speak out publicly about a sensitive subject and challenge the school district’s policies.
It’s good to know there are responsible people looking out for the best interest of students. It’s too bad those people aren’t in the administration.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Michael for the link)