The head of St. Albert’s public schools says he plans to review the activities of a Christian sex-ed group after parents raised concerns about its presence at Sir George Simpson.
Sir George Simpson parents received notice last weekend that the Edmonton Pregnancy Care Centre (PCC) would be teaching part of the sex-ed classes at the school starting this week.
The centre is a Christian counselling service for pregnant women that offers a free course called WAIT! Let’s Talk Sex to schools that emphasizes abstinence, reports the group’s website.
Board superintendent Barry Wowk said the centre has been teaching this course at some public schools for a number of years, and this year was active at Simpson and Elmer S. Gish.
Parent Kevin Friese said he learned the centre was active at Simpson last year, and decided to opt his son out of the centre’s session after his research suggested the group overemphasized abstinence. He was also concerned that his son would not receive unbiased information from a Christian group.
Luke Fevin, co-founder of the Facebook group Alberta Parents for Unbiased Public Inclusive Learning, said he had heard from three parents concerned about the centre’s presence at Simpson and had written to the public board with his concerns.
“The PCC is an evangelical religious ministry. This is not a health organization.”
Fevin noted that the centre was an affiliate of the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services (CAPSS), which is a Christian non-profit that he said opposed contraception, abortion, and gay marriage.
“They are completely unfit to be anywhere near a public school system.”
The centre’s website states that it is a Christian organization but does not mention the group’s links to CAPSS. The CAPSS website does list the PCC as an affiliate.
CAPSS’s statement of principles, a copy of which was provided by Fevin, states that its affiliates “believe in celibate singleness; and in faithful heterosexual marriage as God’s design for family,” and will provide accurate medical information about sexuality, abortion, and alternatives to abortion from a Christian perspective. Affiliates are not to recommend or provide abortions or contraceptives.
In an email, Norah Kennedy, executive director of the centre, said that the WAIT program focuses on healthy relationships “regardless of how an individual may sexually identify” and encouraged students to talk to a trusted adult when it came to sexual decision-making.
Course information comes from recognized sources such as Alberta Health Services and includes information on contraception and abortion in addition to abstinence, Kennedy said.
“We do not mention God, but firmly believe that every person is loved by Him.”
Edmonton Public Schools directed its schools to stop using the Pregnancy Care Centre for sex-ed in 2014 after parents raised concerns about it. Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools administration was not aware of the centre doing any presentation at its schools, said spokesperson Carol Bruineman.
Karen Lumley Kerr said she raised concerns about the centre when her son was at Simpson in 2015, and sat in on some of its sessions.
“They spent a lot of time talking about porn addiction,” she said of the instructors, and gave out what she said was inaccurate or misleading information on HIV and abortions. The centre emphasized heterosexual marriage and said same-sex relationships were “just friendships.”
“They weren’t giving actual facts. They were just giving what fit in their agenda.”
Centre to be reviewed
Wowk said administration and the board examined the centre in 2015 after hearing concerns about it and imposed restrictions. The centre must now be supervised by a teacher during lessons to ensure curriculum is followed and cannot teach students past Grade 8 unless they are in the Logos Christian program.
“We had some concerns with the overemphasis on abstinence, especially in grades 9 and up,” Wowk said.
While parents can opt out of these lessons, Wowk said the board would review the centre’s activities for next year in response to parent concerns.
“Right now, my biggest concern is making sure there are no (religious) beliefs being brought into the classroom.”
Lumley Kerr, Fevin, and Friese called on the board to cut ties with the centre.
Research suggests that today’s kids can be sexually active as young as 12 and it’s important that kids know about all the options available, not just abstinence, Friese said.
While his son would attend the centre’s sessions this year, Friesen said he would speak with him after on other aspects of sexual health.
“We want to ensure our son is prepared as a young adult.”