Catholic superintendent responds to sex-ed concerns

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The Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta has been under fire for alternative sex-education curriculum they’ve been working on. They are being accused of not making consent a priority in their teachings, among other topics.

David Keohane, superintendent of Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools, says the claims are untrue.

“There seems to be a leap in judgment that anything we would teach would be contrary to basic human rights afforded to individuals,” he says on the topic of consent. “We respect every legal parameter that is in place. The only Catholic teaching in respect to that is it appeals to our sense of conscience that we would be respectful of another partner’s readiness.”

The accusations stem from documents released by a freedom of information request, previously reported on in the Edmonton Journal.

The documents contained one years’ worth of emails between Catholic organizations about the sex-education curriculum, which included key points drafted by the Alberta Catholic Schools Trustees’ Association and the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta.

The documents said teaching consent as the primary criteria for engaging in sexual activity, teaching on same-sex relationships, masturbation, anal and oral sex, using contraception or teaching gender identity as disassociated from biological sex would be problematic to the Catholic perspective.

Premier Rachel Notley responded to the documents filed with the province, saying that the sex-education curriculum proposed by the district would not be taught as advertised.

Keohane says a number of those topics have been misrepresented to the public, adding that it would be up to parents whether they want their children to participate in the program.

“The parent has the right to know what the program is, make an informed decision about a child’s participation and if the parent disagrees with the child’s participation, that child can be opted out.”

He says chastity will be a main focus in the curriculum, with all sexual activity being carried out within the boundaries of marriage.

Keohane says the district has also been falsely accused of drafting the sex-education curriculum in secret and sending it to Alberta Education.

He says it’s a common practice to get feedback from various stakeholders while drafting curriculum, adding that different school subjects go through a similar process.

When it came to sending the suggestions to the province, he says the minister reached out to the council asking for suggestions in drafting the sex-education curriculum.

“There was nothing sinister or no kind of hidden agenda,” he says. “When we do social studies curriculum, we’re going to be sensitive to the French Canadians and we’re going to be sensitive to the needs of the First Nations People and we would expect that these groups would dialogue with the ministry.”

“It’s ultimately up to the government to create this program, but we want to have input. And that’s all that happened, it was simply based on input to get the ministry to remember what the Catholic worldview is on many of these topics.”

The released documents show that the council applied for a grant to draft the alternative sex-education curriculum.

In March Alberta Education denied the request for $66,005, with the minister saying that the government doesn’t fund religious curriculum or resources.

The council decided they would continue to move forward in drafting the supplementary curriculum, which will be submitted to the province in November.

The Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta said in a news release on Oct. 24 that the district has been working alongside the government while creating the draft, and will continue to work with the government going forward.

“Catholic schools are committed to building inclusive communities to promote welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments where all are respected and belong. This is a foundational belief in our faith and is reflected in the climate and culture as well as resources within our schools,” it read.

The council said that the curriculum would complement the prescribed Alberta Education wellness curriculum, not replace it.

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Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.