This page is for teachers/administrators who are introducing sexual health education in a community, or wanting to advocate for sexual health education but may be experiencing some opposition.
Schools are pivotal organizations in providing sexuality education. Because they have meaningful contact with nearly every young person, schools can be a vital vehicle for ensuring access to effective sexual health education. In a series of Canadian surveys, 85% of parents and 89% of adolescents agreed that sexual health education should be provided in schools.
Although the majority of Canadians are supportive, some people oppose, or may not understand the content and objectives of sexual health education. The following strategies have proven to be useful in gaining support for sexual health education.
1. Communicate the philosophy and rationale behind comprehensive sexual health education.
The creation of a statement of principles serves as a foundation for sexual health education. It provides everyone with a common vision of the program’s purpose, objectives, beliefs and approach. Examples of some principles are:
- Sexual health education enables individuals, families and communities to develop the knowledge and skills required for sexual well being.
- Sexual health education emphasizes the self-worth and dignity of the individual.
- Effective sexual health education in the school is taught within specific programs and is linked to related curriculum areas that address sexuality, relationships, and personal development.
- Sexual health education must be sensitive to individual beliefs, family values, community, cultural, and religious backgrounds.
Two documents within this web site may be helpful in communicating philosophy and rationale behind sexual health education. They are:
2. Assess and formalize your school’s stance and policies on sexual health education.
- Establish a committee: A committee that has broad representation from the community will enhance support for the program. The committee can be made up of parents, students, teachers, administration, school board members and other representatives from various sectors in the community who support comprehensive sexuality education.
- Draft a sexual health education policy: A policy will ensure that committee members are cohesive and consistent in the values, beliefs and goals of the sexual health education program. An example of such policy, from the Michipicoten Board of Education of Algoma, Ontario is below:
Michipicoten Board of Education Policy:
- The Michipicoten Board of Education is committed to providing appropriate sexual health education to all of our students enrolled in Grades 1 to 12.
- All programming will reflect the board’s Sexual Health Education Philosophy Statement developed and approved by the community.
- The responsibility for the implementation and review of the program rests with the school principal and board supervisory staff.
- The Michipicoten Board of Education respects the right of a student to withdraw from sexual health education programming.
- Where appropriate, every attempt will be made to inform parents about the content and delivery method of the program.
- Consider the broad spectrum of views and beliefs in the community: Invite discussion in your school/community about ways to show or demonstrate respect for all religions, faiths and cultures as recognized in a democratic society.
- Remember your target audience: Do not spend a lot of time trying to convince opponents of sexual health education to change their viewpoint. The important people to educate and reach are parents and community members who may not understand or have adequate information about the importance of sexual health education.
- Organize an educational forum: This can promote understanding of sexuality education, and reduce misunderstandings and fears. Teachers and administration can talk about the curriculum and how they propose to teach the subject. Experts in the field of health and sexuality might be invited to speak. Parents may wish to see some of the educational tools (i.e. videos, books etc) that will be used.
- Provide support and training for teachers: Educators who specialize in sexual health education are available to help teachers develop their skills and increase their comfort in teaching sexual health. Experienced teachers may be willing to assist less experienced teachers through mentoring, sharing of lesson plans and resources, or through team teaching.
- Choose a spokesperson: This person will ensure a consistent voice for the committee. It is preferable that the spokesperson be someone from the school or the school board who will act as the media and community contact.
- Contact other community leaders: Contact both elected officials and other well-known members of the community. Ask them to come to community forums and help support your efforts.
3. Focus on parental involvement.
Although most Canadian parents are in favour of their children receiving sexual health education, it is essential to inform and involve them in the delivery of the program. This will not only resolve any misconceptions about the content and the goals of the program, but will also give parents an opportunity to provide input and to offer their support. Some ways to involve parents are:
- Send a letter home that describes the course/program. Remind parents that although sexual health education is considered important for all students, they may ‘opt out.’ If a student is opting out, provide him/her with alternate, acceptable activities.
- Show parents the materials you are planning to use.
- Provide information about where students and parents can get follow-up material. For example, parents can obtain fact sheets and pamphlets on many sexual health topics from local health agencies.
- Organize a workshop for parents regarding how to talk with their children about sexuality.
- Don’t forget you can always refer parents to our Parent Portal!
By taking the time to develop support, you will be rewarded by having a sustainable, comprehensive sexual health education program in your school. Good luck!