British Columbia

The birds and the beads: B.C. tweens get explicit, accidental sex education

An explicit sex guide describing fetishes and drug use was offered to preteens inside a B.C. classroom, prompting outrage from parents and an official apology from the school district.

Public health nurse mistakenly gives explicit sex guide to Grade 6 and 7 students

The CATIE Safer Sex Guide features cartoon illustrations referencing sexual acts, in some cases, in explicit detail. (CATIE)

An explicit sex guide describing fetishes and drug use was offered to preteens inside a B.C. classroom, prompting outrage from parents and an official apology from the school district.

The sex guide — which features cartoon images accompanied by explicit details of sexual acts and fetishes — was made available to Grade 6 and 7 students at Erickson Elementary School in Creston, B.C., following a regular sex education class taught by a public health nurse and her trainee.

Copies of the 47-page book, which is intended for adults, were taken home by several students on June 20, according to the district. The school has since received complaints from eight different parents.

The school's principal, superintendent and the public health nurse have since issued apologies to the parents.

"It's quite graphic, and I consider myself to be a fairly liberal person — and I was shocked," said Christine Perkins, the superintendent of the Kootenay Lake School District.

"We have issued apologies, offered counselling to families, we're phoning every single parent, we've got counselling through the summer if anybody wants it," she told CBC News.

Drug use while having sex is among the sections in the illustrated booklet. (CATIE)

Adult cartoons

The sex education class was taught by a local public health nurse, who had been working with a nursing student to lead the three-day course at the elementary school.

On the final day, the pair brought in some extra learning materials from their office, including the Safer Sex Guide — a book produced by CATIE, a Canadian HIV awareness and research organization.

The nurse told CBC News that the book appeared — at first glance — to be age appropriate for the students. It features a series of cartoon animal characters.

But the book also features graphic descriptions of sex acts and fetishes, including bondage and shared sex toys. It even suggests ways to use drugs while having sex to reduce the chances of passing on HIV and hepatitis C.

The guide does warn that it contains sexually explicit information and is meant for mature audiences.

The public health nurse and her nursing student brought a stack of booklets to share with the classroom without realizing it contained explicit materials.

Neither the teacher of the class, nor the school's principal, thoroughly vetted the content.

Bondage is among the fetishes explored in the book produced by CATIE, a Canadian HIV awareness and research organization. (CATIE)

Parents outraged

The district said several students took the book home. At least eight parents filed complaints.

Liz Anderson says her 12-year-old son Garrett saw the booklet, and then showed it to a student from another class.

"This book was on the side of almost sexual assault, teaching the kids this kind of crap," she told CBC News. "On my part, I think the health nurse and the principal should have went through that book before it was even allowed in the school."

Parents voiced their concerns at a meeting held by the school on Tuesday.

The district said it plans to institute a thorough vetting process for third-party learning materials in the future.

Superintendent Perkins said the teacher and the principal are both remorseful.

"It's extremely important to have age-appropriate education. We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but at the same time, we don't want to not inform kids. Of course, we don't want our kids going out and having STDs or getting pregnant," said Perkins.

"But there's certain ages and certain ways, methods in which to teach at different age levels, and I think that was the step that was missed here."

'Kids are resilient'

Teaching kids about the risk of sexually transmitted diseases are part of B.C. school's Grade 6 and 7 physical health curriculum.

Sex educator Saleema Noon says children approaching high school should be learning that there are many different kinds of sex — but teachers should handle it with care.

"In Grade 6 and 7, we really need to kick it up a notch," she said. "In a perfect world, preteens wouldn't be exposed to information ... that really is intended for adults."

She says children are often exposed to more explicit content than parents might think thanks to the internet and social media, and it's important to have open and honest conversations with them.

"The good news is kids are pretty resilient, at that age especially," said Noon.

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