Update P.E.I.’s sexual education curriculum

“Sexuality is a part of our humanity and an integral part of who we are as individuals. Good, current curriculum recognizes this and promotes nurturance, understanding, appreciation, knowledge and community.”

In Jane Ledwell’s opinion piece printed in the Guardian on the first anniversary of the #MeToo movement, she asks the question – “what can we do?” One solution she provides is to develop good, sound policy. In light of recent headline news, it is more important than ever to connect the dots and draw the lines between education, awareness and behaviour.

Schools are the ideal place to educate and talk about important social issues and offer support for addressing them at the root. This past summer a wonderful offer was extended to the minister of education, Jordan Brown, on behalf of all Island children. In their open letter, “Update P.E.I.’s SexEd Curriculum – Let Us Help,” the PEERS Alliance, P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women and Women’s Network P.E.I. strongly urged Minister Brown to update P.E.I.’s sexual education curriculum and offered to contribute their expertise to this process. Disappointingly, the government’s response was dismissive, claiming that the curriculum was “reviewed last year.”

Updating the sexual education curriculum and policies surrounding it is one simple way we could have a crucial positive impact; an impact that would have a ripple effect into the future and one that would cross all social spheres: education, judicial, health and social services.

Although I am encouraged that the leader in health and physical health curriculum, Maribeth Rogers Neale, has helped to create supplements to our current curriculum, we require more than supplements. We need to revamp our whole sexual health curriculum and way of delivery so that it serves the most basic needs of our students and supports our teachers so that they are comfortable in delivering the curriculum.

An evidence-based, well-developed sexual health curriculum is essential for raising children who will engage in healthy relationships and respect diversity in Island life. As a Sexuality and Reproductive Health Facilitator at the Sexuality Education Resource Centre Manitoba explains, “...It is about how our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual selves interact in terms of our sexuality and our understanding of ourselves.

It is about mental health, reproductive rights, birth control access, consent, bodies, healthy relationships, body image, ... social justice and all of the things that affect our bodies and relationships.” Sexuality is a part of our humanity and an integral part of who we are as individuals. Good, current curriculum recognizes this and promotes nurturance, understanding, appreciation, knowledge and community.

I thank the PEERS Alliance, P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women and Women’s Network P.E.I. for taking on this crucial work. Updating this curriculum in collaboration with school personnel, community organizations, students and parents is the right and responsible thing to do and to accept this offer of collaboration just makes sense!

Karla Bernard is the Green Party of PEI's Education Critic. This opinion piece was originally published in the Guardian on October 5, 2018.