Schools in the Strait region will now be able to hand out booklets on healthy sexuality.

The Strait Regional School Board has reversed a decision from nearly 10 years ago that banned its distribution. Until now, the board has been the only one in the province not to hand out the booklet prepared by the provincial government.

In 2004, the board voted six to four against handing it out, saying some of the material was too racy. It covers issues relating to sexual health, including masturbation and oral sex.

Public health officials from the Guysborough Antiogonish Strait Health Authority recently asked the board to reconsider.

“Leaving these children and youth without sexual health education puts them at risk for basically sexually transmitted infection, unwanted pregnancy, unhealthy relationships, abuse,” said Donna Sampson of the health authority. “It just so comprehensive for them to understand what this is about.”

Current board Chair Mary Jess MacDonald was one of the board members who originally voted against the booklet.

She said the board has reconsidered because they want to counteract misinformation about sexual health that teens see online.

“It’s factual information,” she said. “It’s based on the safety, and the safety in their lives and their positive attitude towards themselves and others.”

The booklet is already used in Grade 9 health classes, but it will now be made available for students in Grade 7 and 8 with their parents consent.