Alberta education minister rejects sex-education curriculum of Catholic schools

Education minister David Eggen is rejecting curriculum submitted by Alberta Catholic schools aimed at incorporating church teachings into sexual education in the classroom.

Catholic school superintendents say including church teachings better equips students to make own decisions

David Eggen, Alberta's Education Minister, said the sexual education document submitted by Catholic schools is "unacceptable." (CBC)

Education Minister David Eggen is slamming the curriculum submitted by Alberta Catholic schools aimed at incorporating church teachings into sexual education in the classroom.

The document, submitted by the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta, states that, according to the Catholic faith, same-sex sexual relations are "not part of God's natural order." Gender and gender identity are always linked to one's sex at birth, it says.

"The document in question is unacceptable," wrote Eggen, in an emailed statement, declining an interview with CBC News.

"We approach all conversations about how to improve our curriculum in good faith, but this submission was never given serious consideration and no funding was provided in response."

His response contrasts sharply with the interpretation of those discussions by Karl Germann, president of the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta.

"They say there will be no issues or concerns with what we want to teach inside the provincial curriculum," said Germann Monday, acknowledging a request for funding was not approved. "We want to make sure that we can incorporate the Catholic perspective and they're OK with that."

The council's submission highlights "key messages" from a Catholic perspective around sexuality, including same-sex relationships and gender identity.

It emphasizes that Catholic schools are committed to having caring, safe environments and "people who experience same-sex attraction are very welcome in our Church, equally respected and [loved]."

Unable to promote homosexual relationships

But the document also identifies several potential "problematic" areas where the curriculum could clash against church doctrine.

"We would be unable to teach any outcome requiring the promotion of homosexual relationships and/or lifestyles that are contrary to Church teaching," it says. "If the curriculum stipulates that we have to teach about 'gender' or 'gender identity' as disassociated from biological sex, then that would be problematic."

Germann said the aim is not to try to "change the individual." But it's important to offer the Catholic perspective, in addition to teaching curriculum required by the province.

"The more you understand perspectives from a variety of faiths and a variety of perspectives the better kids are to make their own decisions," he said, adding school officials will meet with the department Friday.
Former Catholic school student Monica Gugliotta warned that including church teachings in sex ed classes would lead to further discrimination of LGBTQ students. (Submitted)

Former Catholic school student Monica Gugliotta,16, said she recognizes the right of Catholic schools to include church teachings in sex education curriculum, but warned it will likely have consequences.

"If that happens then there will be discrimination against the LGBTQ community," said Gugliotta, a Grade 11 student at Ross Sheppard High School. "If these teachings are [included] then that right of people being able to identify a different way, other than straight, is taken away."

Gugliotta, who identifies as bisexual, transferred from Oscar Romero High School after being among dozens of students who protested an order last June to remove pride week decorations.

She questioned Germann's support for a "variety of perspectives".

"If that were truly the case then why is the promotion of homosexual relationships and or lifestyles or even the teachings of gender identity problematic?" asked Gugliotta, referring to the document.

The skirmish is the latest in an ongoing battle pitting LGBTQ advocates against social conservatives who argue it comes at a cost to religious and parental rights.

The two sides have clashed over gay-straight alliances, which are now legally mandated but still meeting resistance; the use of washrooms for transgender students; and sex ed, forcing Eggen to once again provide assurances.

"I'm deeply concerned to see it suggested that providing Alberta students with accurate information on these important topics is "problematic" or that there's something wrong with being gay," he wrote.

"I can assure Albertans that, under our government, any curriculum changes will be inclusive of all students — no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation."

Last year the province launched a controversial review to overhaul the provincial curriculum. Critics such as UCP leadership candidate Jason Kenney have accused the NDP government of rewriting the curriculum in secret to force its ideology on students.

'Disservice to our students'

 "I think it's extremely important that we have sexual health classes that are based in fact and real-life knowledge," said Kristin Heimbecker, a parent who lost her bid to represent Ward 77 as a Catholic school trustee in Edmonton's recent election.

"We're doing a disservice to our students and really putting public health at risk by not equipping these students with the knowledge that public school children have."

But Donna Trimble, executive director of Parents For Choice in Education, said "sexual ethics differ amongst our diverse population" and sexual education must respect those differences. She said the rights of parents to choose an authentic Catholic education for their children must be protected.

"Genuine diversity in schools is undermined when a government exploits mandated curriculum to impose a singular perspective on sexuality on all Alberta students," said Trimble.