CBE severs ties with Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre after 'pattern' of questions
Centre connected to anti-abortion group offered sex-ed to students for more than 25 years
The Calgary Board of Education has ended its relationship with the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre, which has provided sexual health presentations to students for more than 25 years.
Individual teachers of Grade 7 to 12 students have long invited Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre to conduct sexual education, CBE learning services director Dianne Roulson told CBC News in an interview.
On Aug. 29, the board sent a notice to schools, directing them not to invite the centre back. The decision was in effect for this school year.
"We have had questions raised over time by some students and staff and families about a balanced approach with Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre," Roulson said. "So there's been a pattern in those questions that have been raised over time."
Centre affiliated with controversial anti-abortion charity
Roulson and the board declined to elaborate about the nature of those questions or concerns.
However, the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre is a member of the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services, a Christian charity with an anti-abortion stance.
Centre disappointed in CBE decision
Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre executive director Jutta Wittmeier said the group is disappointed by the CBE decision and disputed the claim that their presentations were unbalanced.
"We actually do present a very balanced program. That is basically one of the things that we're very careful about," she said. "Basically we talk about sexual decision making and healthy relationships, and what the teachers like best about our program is the focus on relationships."
Roulson said the centre's services were reviewed as part of a regular assessment of programs.
Going forward, teachers will be offered further support to teach sexual health as part of their regular life and health skills units, the board said.
Teachers are best equipped to teach the topic as they know the students well, Roulson said. They'll be offered professional development opportunities and support from resources, such as Alberta Health Services.
The provincial government also offers a website with sample sex-ed curriculum to help teachers prepare for the topic, the board said.
Parent applauds decision
The change comes as welcome news to some parents, including Angela Bateman, parent of two high-school boys in the CBE system.
"I do know, from past experience with the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre, they are more of a religious type of group, which in my opinion, doesn't have a place in the public education system," Bateman said.
As a young woman, she sought help with one of her pregnancies at the centre and said she was discouraged from having an abortion, despite not requesting one.
Bateman said she hopes the CBE's decision will mean children will be educated about the gender spectrum and non-straight relationships — subjects she worries may not have aligned with the centre's position. Her own son is transgender.
"It's really important that everyone gets representation … and everyone gets the same protections," Bateman said. "It's just a very good thing that they've broken the tie with them."
Centre used same statistics used by AHS: Wittmeier
The centre says on its website that its volunteers must have the "essential" quality of recognizing "the true intrinsic value of all human life."
The website also says staff will discuss abortions with clients and offer post-abortion grief supports. Wittmeier notes that the centre is not a medical facility and doesn't help pregnant people seek abortions.
However, the centre's activities are "a moot point" when discussing the classroom programs, Wittmeier said.
The centre's school presentation facilitators relied on "only peer-reviewed and relevant research" and the same statistics used by Alberta Health Services, Wittmeier said. The presentations spoke about "informed choices," she said, adding that the centre's facilitators weren't meant to be covering everything about sexual health.
"I sort of feel I think we can trust the excellent teachers that work for the CBE to evaluate who comes into their classroom, and many teachers have had us in year after year," Wittmeier.
After seeing the news Friday, parent Annette Mancuso wrote to CBC News to say she had appreciated the centre's approach in sex-ed presentations.
"They focus on relationships and bring awareness of responsibility and consequences (emotional and physical) that sexual activity brings to especially a young person," she wrote in an email. "Both students and schools are missing out. I am sad to see this happening."
The centre was informed last week of the board's decision, and staff have contacted teachers who've already booked their services for this school year.
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With files from Lucie Edwardson.
- This article previously stated that the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services was the parent charity of a pregnancy centre kicked out of a Maritime university's student union building. In fact, Valley Care Pregnancy Centre is the parent company of that pregnancy centre.Sep 11, 2018 6:58 AM MT