A number of parents were left baffled after a graphic sex education guide was mistakenly distributed to a Grade 6 and 7 health class at a Creston elementary school, sparking an apology from the school district for the awkward mishap.
Concerned parents voiced their anger at a Kootenay Lake school district meeting on Tuesday evening. The booklet, called The Safer Sex Guide is published by the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange and provides tips on how to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
The booklet clearly states online and inside that the guide contains sexually explicit information and is meant for mature audiences.
Terine Sandre, one of the parents who attended the meeting, told the Creston Valley Advance that she has since spoken to the president of CAITIE, who told her that the book was originally ordered by the local public hospital.
“He said if we would have known that that book was going near any elementary school, it would have been red flagged and never sent out to that hospital,” Sandre said.
In a letter to parents last Friday, principal Ken Wiens deemed the material to be inappropriate for the age group and apologized for not being more diligent in vetting the material beforehand.
“We will work together as a staff to ensure a similar incident does not happen in the future,” he said. “We are sorry that we put your child in a place where they had access to this material.”
A letter from Interior Health public health nurse Kayla Benson the same day also confirmed that the resource had not been reviewed before providing it as a resource to students.
“This is a new resource that we did not review completely before providing it to Mrs. [Carmen] Murphy to use as a further resource for the students.” she said. “Upon review, it was evident that there was some explicit language and content used that may not be appropriate for this age group.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, the school board recognized parents were distraught by the Safer Sex Guide and explained to parents that the school board does not have control over the health authority or the public health nurse.
SD8 Supt. Christine Perkins agreed with the concerns of the parents.
“The material was written for adults, by adults, the graphics and language are clearly for the 19 plus age group,” Perkins said.
“Up to this event, we have had implicit trust in our partnership with our local health care providers; unfortunately, at this moment, that has been broken.”
“We did receive an email in support of the program,” added Perkins. “Surprisingly, although the parents were kind of shocked that their conversation with their son was taking place earlier than usual, they wanted the board to know that as parents they had 100 per cent confidence in teacher Murphy, and were not upset about the situation at all. So there are diverse opinions.”
Perkins assured parents that in the future all documents being offered to students by a third party will be thoroughly reviewed by both principal and classroom teacher before being distributed.
School trustee Al Gribbin was unsuccessful in asking for a motion to ensure that the school board brought appropriate professionals in to help with the situation.
Velle Huscroft Weitman, another concerned parent said that isn’t enough, especially due to the guide’s tips on how to avoid contracting HIV through drug use and the fact that school is out for summer this week.
“Will a certified doctor, and RCMP officer speak with the children regarding the safe drug use techniques described in the book before school is out?,” she asked.
“The book does not say that drugs are harmful. It teaches how to snort coke safely without contracting an STI. Where is the counselling going to be provided? Is it not going to be able to be provided through the school. School is out in two days.”
Instead, board chair Lenoar Trenaman said that whatever counselling services possible within the school district would be available to students and parents if needed.
“We can’t change it,” Trenaman. “We can’t turn the clock back.”