Parents of students in British Columbia’s public schools are increasingly frustrated that the province’s school system lacks sex ed.
The “perfect storm” of a lack of education on sexual health and the growing number of students who identify as LGBTQ, says a report released this week by the Education Policy Centre.
In 2016-17, just 5 per cent of all school-aged students attended sex ed programs, according to the report released Tuesday.
That is up from a low of just 4 per cent in 2013-14.
The numbers have risen steadily since 2014-15, when the province introduced a comprehensive sex education program in place of the provincial-mandated curriculum.
As well, in 2016-19, the provincial government increased the number of sex education classes from five to eight per year.
Yet despite this increase, the numbers of students attending these classes have remained static.
While the number has steadily increased since 2014, only 5 per to 10 per cent attended sex education programs in 2016, according the report.
A study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a non-profit organization, found that only 5.6 per cent parents had ever attended sex-ed classes.
This is because the provincial school system is so fragmented and fragmented programs don’t reach the majority of students.
“We know there are a lot of kids who are not getting the sex education they need and we need to be doing it right.
And that’s why the provincial sex education curriculum is the way it is,” said Anne-Marie LeBlanc, the education policy centre’s president.
‘We’re going backwards’Despite the growing numbers of LGBTQ students in school, the province continues to be slow to implement sex ed initiatives.
When the new sex ed curriculum was introduced, a year ago, just over 50 per cent were enrolled.
Since then, the proportion has fallen to just 44 per cent, according a report from the Fraser Institute released in December.
Some parents have been calling on the provincial administration to provide more resources for sex ed, such as providing additional teaching staff, more classrooms, more technology and more training for teachers.
“We’re not going backwards.
We’re going forward,” said Diane, a mother of two boys in the Lower Mainland.
There are also concerns about the lack of sexual harassment training in the public school system, which has become a focus of the government’s new sexual-inclusive curriculum.
The Fraser Institute report found that about 40 per cent teachers did not receive sexual harassment prevention training in 2016.
With the number that do have it, many parents are reluctant to have their children participate in sex ed classes, says the report’s authors.
One in three parents surveyed by the institute said they do not feel safe with their children participating in school sex ed class.
Many parents said they are reluctant or even afraid of speaking up because of concerns about their safety, said the report authors.
“There’s a fear that they’re going to get caught, so there’s a reluctance to talk to the teachers.
There’s a belief that if they do, they’ll be seen as a problem,” said Laura D’Arcy, a co-author of the report and a member of the Fraser School Board.
According to the Education Ministry, only 1.5 per cent children and teens in B.C. were enrolled in sex education in 2016 in English and French.
It is unclear how many of the students are involved in school-based sex education.
Parents are also worried about how the new curriculum will affect their children’s sexual health.
D’Arces said that parents may not understand what they are receiving in their classes and that they may not even know that it is the curriculum that has changed.
B.C.’s Public Schools Minister says sex ed is coming, but it needs to be done in a safe and respectful way.