Exclusive sex-ed push putting 'final nail in coffin' for Catholic system, says local advocate

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
October 24, 2017 - 10:52pm Updated: October 25, 2017 - 7:24am

A local educator says if Catholic school boards want to impose a certain way of teaching sex-ed, it could lead to an awkward situation for instructors.

Brice Unland, President of Alberta Teachers’ Association Local 80 for Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, says he was as surprised as anyone when news broke Monday that the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta (CCSSA) was pushing for a parallel sex-ed curriculum for Catholic schools.

In the story published by the Edmonton Journal, ATA spokesperson Jonathan Teghtmeyer was quoted as saying there should only be one sex education curriculum, adding any resources developed by Catholic school boards for reaching sex-ed outcomes should be optional for teachers.

Unland, a social studies teacher at École Secondaire Notre Dame High School, says he supports those statements and welcomes the discussion that’s being raised.

“Our job is to teach the program of studies as developed by the Alberta government - that's who's authorized to create a program of studies. We have a legal obligation to teach that, whatever it happens to be,” he says.

"Now if the Catholic superintendents and Catholic school boards develop a parallel curriculum that they would like us to teach, they can ask us lawfully to do so and all of a sudden teachers are in a very difficult situation where we have to follow the legality of teaching the program as developed by the province and at the same time following the lawful order of our employer, the school board.”

Unland says if Catholic superintendents or school boards have issues with the government-developed curriculum, that’s something he’d prefer gets sorted out long before it ever reaches the desks of teachers.

Paul Mason, Red Deer Catholic Superintendent, and Adriana LaGrange, Red Deer Catholic Trustee and President of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association both declined comment on the matter.

However, in a letter addressed to Randy Clarke, Director of the Leadership Excellence Branch of Alberta Education dated January 11, 2017, LaGrange expressed her support for the CCSSA’s provincial grant request of $66,000 to fund the development of the aforementioned parallel curriculum.

In the letter, LaGrange also states the proposed curriculum would provide a Christian worldview of sexuality and relationship in an age of moral uncertainty. She added we have a society which, “no longer values the dignity and respect of all human persons,” and that the message they want to teach is consistent with strong parental voice locally.

While their grant request to the province was rejected in March, the CCSSA is still pushing forward with the project with resources from Catholic school districts from across Alberta.

By going down this path, a spokesperson for Red Deer-based Trans and Non-binary Aid Society (TANAS) says Catholic educators are putting the final nail in their own coffin when it comes to having a separate school system.

Kareen Lambert’s children attend Notre Dame, one is an LGBTQ+ student. She says Catholic educators are proving Red Deer Public Schools Trustee Dianne Macaulay, a loud voice for one publicly funded system, right by continuing to alienate students.

Lambert says the CCSSA’s use of the phrase ‘modern gender theory’ is particularly concerning.

"The existence of transgender and non-binary individuals is not a theory, it is not an ideology. It is a simple human fact," she stresses.

“It worries me that our children would be getting a partial education on something so critical to their health. There are transgender, non-binary, lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual and asexual children in these classes and they need education on these issues just as much as straight kids do.”

To not give a child, straight, gay, or gender-diverse, all the information they need to prevent infection, pregnancy and a host of other issues is a disservice to every student, Lambert adds.

Lambert admits she’s no expert on deciding when kids should begin learning about certain topics, but says the fact that 12-year-old girls were getting pregnant when she was in school about 25 years ago is proof that kind of education is needed early on.

She also points to a recent rise in male oral cancer cases caused by the HPV virus as further evidence Catholic educators and parents need to stop being afraid of certain subjects.

“I think most of this curriculum has been made in conjunction with psychologists and healthcare providers and it’s been made appropriate for what's actually happening statistically in youth instead of being based around the fears of parents and religion.”

Education Minister David Eggen has called the CCSSA’s proposal “unacceptable.” Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan said it is “entirely inappropriate and must be rejected.” Premier Rachel Notley chimed in Tuesday saying whatever the CCSSA has been crafting will never be taught.

The Alberta government is currently undergoing rewrites of all teaching plans from kindergarten to Grade 12. Catholic school superintendents have told the province that a curriculum which promotes homosexuality, contraception and consent as being the primary issues when deciding to engage in sex clashes with Catholic beliefs.

Notley says parents will continue to have the right to pull their child out of sex-ed classes, but it won’t be negotiable that students will be instructed on sexual health.

On consent, Notley added that every student will be taught the ultimate decision to engage in sex is theirs and theirs alone.

(with file from The Canadian Press)

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