The state has required schools in Saskatchewan to inform parents about sexual health education curricula and allow parents to opt out of those curricula on behalf of their children.
Experts, doctors and opposition officials have warned of the move, calling the new policy harmful and alarming.
Education Minister Dustin Duncan also announced Tuesday morning that schools would need permission from a parent or guardian to change preferred names or pronouns for students under the age of 16.
Duncan said school boards should immediately cease their involvement with third-party providers of sexual health education, such as the ARC Foundation and the SOGI 123 program, which promote a comprehensive approach to sexual orientation and gender identity. said there is. Going forward, only teachers will be able to present sex education materials in the classroom. In the meantime, the state will review its educational resources.
“What we want to ensure is student success and parents getting more involved in their children’s education. In the case of sexual health education, 15 out of 27 school departments already have this policy. “We are doing it,” Duncan said.
Extending sex education policies to all 27 school districts would provide consistency, he said.
“Going forward, we will be talking to the school department about this, and we will be talking to parents … what they are saying is that they want to be more involved,” Duncan said.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Duncan was asked if the opt-out clause could harm children. He said it was one of the topics on the education ministry’s agenda to discuss with the schools department.
“If parents object to the resources being used, alternative resources may be put in place,” Duncan said, adding that parents need to be more actively involved in explaining sex education to their children. He added that he believes there is
sexual health concerns
Saskatoon child psychiatrist Tamara Hintz said she found the state’s announcement alarming.
“I was very surprised and very disappointed. I think everyone in the state was pretty caught off guard by this,” Hintz said. “I think there is real harm in putting reproductive health and consent education elsewhere in the curriculum compared to other parts of the curriculum.”
Hintz said there are numerous studies showing a strong correlation between lack of or poor quality sex education and the incidence of sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, or teenage pregnancies. Stated.
“Especially in states like Saskatchewan, which are already battling very high rates of infections like HIV and syphilis … To take a step back in such a really important education is really amazing to me.”
Julian Wotherspoon, executive director of family planning system Regina, said Saskatchewan’s high levels of STDs, teenage pregnancies and domestic violence are making it easier for people to choose what information their children get. said it wouldn’t solve it.
“I think this is going too far by the government and maybe it’s just a misunderstanding of our role as parents,” said the mother, Wotherspoon.
“When children come back to me with questions about what they have heard in the classroom, that is a gift. It’s a place where you get a broader perspective about ”and it’s our job as parents to bring them home and have a conversation with them. “
Afternoon Edition – Sask11:41Family planning responds to Sask.Changes in education policy
The change in policy came after a student was sexually assaulted at Lumsden High School in June. Ed. Materials containing graphic content brought to school by presenters of Sexual Health for the Family Planning System. Because of this, Duncan has instructed the school board to suspend future presentations on Planned Parenting Plan Regina.
Asked about the matter on Tuesday, Duncan said the situation “partially” led to the policy change, but that there were other factors, including feedback from teachers and parents about sex education. curriculum.
The family planning system has agreed with Saskatchewan on sex education taught only by teachers.
“I think more teachers should teach sex education and related topics in the classroom, but I often hear from teachers that they are not equipped to do that. We don’t have the tools at our fingertips,” said Wotherspoon.
Family planning wants to help teachers get that education, she said.
“We would rather help educators have the tools they need to do it effectively.”
Both Wotherspoon and Hintz said they hope states can consult and listen to sex education and health experts.
“Whether it’s from child advocacy offices, mental health professionals, sexual health professionals…these are the people who should inform policy on these really important topics. ‘ said Hintz.
Saskatchewan NDP leader Carla Beck said the new sex education policy was “harmful”.
“Disappointment isn’t the right word, but it’s at an all-time low,” she said.
Parents have always had the ability to know what their children are learning in school, she says.
“They could always go to school or answer the phone and talk to their teachers about excluding children from certain classes if it was their choice.”
Beck said opposition parties advocate age-appropriate, evidence-based sex education, adding that the new policy is problematic, especially given Saskatchewan’s high STD statistics. Ta.
“The government decided it was appropriate to suggest that more information is the issue here. That is not responsible leadership,” she said.