Quebec educators resist being rushed into teaching sex ed

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Quebec educators resist being rushed into teaching sex ed

Teachers in Quebec say they're being rushed into offering sex-education courses for students from kindergarten through high school without proper training or support.

Unions representing three-quarters of the province's 100,000 teachers have written directly to Premier Philippe Couillard, asking him to delay the launch of the mandatory courses, now set for next September.

Sébastien Joly, head of the Quebec Provincial Teachers Association, which represents teachers in the anglophone sector, told CBC News that teachers support the idea of teaching sex ed in schools and have been lobbying for it for years.

But he said this course is being rushed through.

"We believe these contents are extremely important and delicate, and we need to take the time to ensure there will be proper implementation," Joly said.

Pilot program launched 3 years ago

Quebec abandoned sex education in public schools a decade ago.

It was reintroduced as a pilot program in 200 schools three years ago.

Last December, Couillard and his education minister, Sébastien Proulx, announced the province was expanding the program across the province.

Every Quebec elementary and high school student is to receive mandatory sex education, integrated into current classes, as of next September.

About a million students will receive age-appropriate information on sexuality, anatomy, body image, social roles, sexual assault, sexual relations, stereotypes and sexually transmitted diseases, among other topics. 

Too much too soon

Joly said the pilot program raised several red flags that the Education Ministry hasn't addressed.

He said schools and teachers begin planning for the next school year months ago and that teachers have received little guidance on who will be required to teach the material or precisely how it will be integrated into other courses.

"Will it be phys-ed teachers, as part of their health section? Will it be science teachers? Will it be other teachers?" Joly asked. "It is left to the school to determine."

He said some schools have asked for teachers who would feel comfortable teaching such material to volunteer, but he said many of his union's members are reluctant to do that.

"Ultimately, you will have people who will be ill-prepared and [on] whom it will be imposed to teach the content," he said.

Joly said teachers feel the subject is too important to rush through.

"What if a student comes forward saying they've been sexually abused at home?  How do you react as a teacher who's been trained to teach French or math or English?" he asked.

The unions are urging Couillard to delay launching the course province-wide and to meet with them to discuss the issue.

Couillard and Proulx are currently on a trade mission in Europe and didn't comment on the letter Thursday.

Proulx's office told Radio-Canada that teachers will be well-prepared, and the course will launch as scheduled next September.