Saskatoon

Former Sask. private school students demand ban on controversial Christian curriculum

Former students of a private Christian school traveled to the Saskatchewan Legislature Thursday to demand the government ban a controversial type of curriculum.

Education minister says he's considering more oversight including a curriculum review

Caitlin Erickson (centre) and other former students of Saskatoon's Legacy Christian Academy traveled to the provincial legislature Thursday to demand the government ban a controversial type of Christian curriculum from schools. (Adam Hunter/CBC)

Former students of a private Christian school traveled to the Saskatchewan Legislature Thursday to demand the government ban a controversial type of curriculum.

Caitlin Erickson and other former students of Saskatoon's Legacy Christian Academy were taught using the Accelerated Christian Education, or ACE, curriculum. They say it's still being used in taxpayer-funded independent schools in the province.

Erickson says the heavy fundamentalist religious emphasis came at the expense of basic learning such as math and spelling. One example cited includes teaching that humans and dinosaurs coexisted on earth.

"The information in these textbook are not scientifically accurate. At the end of the day, it's about getting a better education than we got," Erickson said.

It was just one of many concerns the former students have. Erickson and dozens of others have filed criminal assault and abuse complaints against Legacy school and church officials. They've also filed a $25-million lawsuit.

The government has appointed an independent administrator to oversee the school, but students want the government to shut it down or at least suspend its more than $700,000 in annual taxpayer subsidies.

Students were allegedly subjected to widespread abuse that included exorcisms, solitary confinement and an extreme form of corporal punishment known as "paddling."

They were hoping to meet with Premier Scott Moe, who is also Erickson's MLA. That meeting didn't happen, she said.

"It's about children never going through the kinds of things we've gone through, and we've had a lot of adults in positions of authority that have failed us over and over. Sitting today in the legislature kind of feels like a repeat of that," Erickson said.

Legacy Christian Academy, formerly known as Christian Centre Academy, is a private Christian school now at the centre of a class action lawsuit and criminal complaints in which former students claim years of abuse. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The students were invited to attend the sitting Thursday by Opposition MLA Matt Love. He said the government must do much more to get justice for these former students, but also protect current and future generations.

"A track record of physical abuse including paddling. A track record of spiritual abuse including exorcisms. A track record of abusing human rights of children and youth. A track record of curriculum and teaching methods harmful to students and their future success. A track record of anti-science science classes," Love said during the Thursday morning legislative session.

"Will this minister defend this track record and continue to fund this legacy of abuse and harm to students?"

Education Minister Dustin Duncan says he's awaiting results of various investigations before making any decisions. He noted he ordered the closure of a private Christian school connected to Legacy earlier this year after officials refused to co-operate with the appointed administrator.

Duncan said they are looking at "enhancing the accountability" of private independent schools. That could mean a more detailed look at the curriculum, more visits from ministry officials or other measures.

"It's my expectation that the [provincial] curriculum is being taught," Duncan said.

Erickson said they showed Duncan a textbook and raised concerns a month ago. When asked what he thought of the ACE curriculum and the textbooks, Duncan said, "I didn't have a chance to look in depth. I just flipped through it."

Duncan was asked if it's acceptable for schools to teach, for example, that dinosaurs and humans co-existed.

"At the end of the day, though, parents have a choice. If they don't think their child is getting an acceptable education, they don't have to be there," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Warick

Reporter

Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.

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