Moose Jaw school division develops course on gender and sexual diversity

Students in Gay-Straight Alliance groups at the Prairie South school division lobbied for a new Grade 11 class on sexual diversity and gender.

Students in Gay-Straight Alliance groups lobbied for new Grade 11 course

The Prairie South school division will begin offering an internally developed course on sexual diversity and gender soon. (Canadian Press)

The Prairie South School Division based in Moose Jaw, Sask., is ready to move forward with a new class on sexual diversity and gender.

"It's a push from the kids in our schools," said the division's director of education Tony Baldwin in an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

The division has encouraged Gay-Straight Alliance groups in the schools, and it is the students in those groups who first identified the need for a course, said Baldwin.

"Through their work and advocacy they carried on to say, 'Look, we need to be talking about this in school, not just outside of school.'"

Hopes course will increase support and understanding

Working over three years, the school division partnered with Moose Jaw Pride who did much of the work to develop the new course on gender and sexual diversity. Baldwin said they were also able to draw on expertise and information collected by Saskatchewan's Ministry of Education.

The end result is a Grade 11 course that Baldwin believes will meet the needs of students.

"I'm sure that the information that they need to be talked about will be talked about," he said.

Baldwin said that studies show that for students who identify as diverse in gender and sexual orientation, bullying affects their success at school.

"When you don't feel safe, you're not worried about studying for the math test," he said.

"We hope that a course like this will help both with support for kids who have diversity, and also increased understanding and awareness of other students and parents and teachers, and the community."

Course available for second semester 

The new class on sexual diversity and gender issues, he said, will help more students feel safe and he is confident the course will be adopted by some of the schools.

What Baldwin doesn't expect is backlash from parents.

"This is an opportunity for kids to learn more about something that is interesting for them, it is a place where they are taking leadership themselves, and I can't imagine anyone being upset about that."   

Approval for the course came too late to include it on school curriculums in the fall, but Baldwin said schools will be available to offer the course in the second semester.

with files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning