The Edmonton Public School Board has axed a local pregnancy center’s abstinence-based sex-ed presentations after a mother and her 18-year-old daughter filed a human rights complaint.
The school board says the Edmonton Pregnancy Care Centre’s presentations met its “standards and expectations on every level,” but chose to cancel them because they were “becoming very divisive.”
Norah Kennedy, executive director of the Edmonton Pregnancy Care Centre, told LifeSiteNews that she was “very shocked, confused, and very saddened” by the EPSB decision.
“Why on earth would they turn around and make a decision such as this when their own observers — who went in unbeknownst to us that they were coming — gave such a fabulous report back to them?” she asked.
The PCC offers Edmonton-area schools a program called “WAIT! Let’s Talk Sex!” in which sexual abstinence is presented as a “healthy choice for teens,” the organization’s website states. The presentation has been delivered in the city’s public schools since 2006, with about 30 presentations at different schools in the board annually.
Kathy Dawson and her daughter Emily filed their complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission after attending the final day of a two-day sex-ed class delivered as part of a mandatory Career and Life Management (CALM) course at McNally High School last year. Mother and daughter believe the course is not scientifically accurate and is based on what they call religious values.
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“They basically said that condoms were ineffective and they did not at all talk about the combined methods to protect ourselves during sexual intercourse,” Emily Dawson said to CBC News in a video interview.
Kathy Dawson believes her daughter’s rights were violated, saying during the same interview she was “quite shocked” by what her daughter was learning.
“I’m a strong believer in sex-ed. I think that it provides skills for the kids as they head out into the adult world and to make adult choices,” she said.
Dawson said she took issue with the course teaching human life begins when sperm meets eggs, what scientists call the moment of conception or fertilization.
“I personally don’t believe that eggs are life. I don’t believe zygotes are life. The beginning of life is actually a philosophical and religious question, and shouldn’t have been presented the way it was,” she said.
The province’s Human Rights Commission has accepted the Dawsons' complaint.
Both mother and daughter are campaigning on social media to have the EPSB pass a policy against the use of abstinence-based sex-ed in its schools.
Superintendent Darrel Robertson informed parents in a Facebook post on Friday that they would no longer use the Pregnancy Care Centre in classrooms after parental feedback despite acknowledging the program met their requirements.
“I had staff members, one of whom was a registered nurse, attend and observe the presentation unannounced,” he wrote. “They found that the presentation met our standards and expectations on every level – information was presented in a scientifically-sound way and students were observed to be comfortable in sharing their thoughts and feelings.”
Jeremy Fritsche, a spokesperson from the EPSB, told LifeSiteNews that while the board continues to stand by its assessment that PCC was “delivering the curriculum consistent with board policy,” it nevertheless decided to end the group’s program because the matter was “becoming very divisive” among parents.
“We want to make sure that we are doing things in the best interest of students,” he said.
Dawson said, however, she is concerned that with the pregnancy center out of the picture, students in the school board will now learn about sexuality through the ‘safe-sex’ lens of condoms and birth-control.
“There won’t be any talk about the fact that a condom doesn’t protect your heart,” she said.
Dawson said children are inundated from every side of what she called a “sex-saturated society” with the message that sex has no value except as a feel-good pleasurable experience.
Teens need to learn “sex is a wonderful thing, but only when you are ready for it,” she said.
The PCC board is considering its next steps. Dawson said she plans to meet with the school board officials to discuss what she believes is a “wrong decision.”
Numerous studies have found that abstinence-based programs yield positive benefits.
A 2012 U.S. study found abstinence education reduced the rate of teens engaging in sex for the first time. A 2010 study among African-American preteens found abstinence-only education decreased rates of promiscuity. A 2005 study examining the lives of over 7,000 men and women found that remaining a virgin until 18 was associated with a number of positive effects, including having better marriage stability, achieving a higher education level, and earning higher incomes.
Darrel Robertson, Superintendent
Edmonton Public Schools