Should parents be allowed to pull their children out of core curriculum courses on human sexuality?

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This article was published 25/5/2012 (3206 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Paul Olson: 'too many unanswered questions' about aboriginal public schools.

HADAS PARUSH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

Paul Olson: 'too many unanswered questions' about aboriginal public schools.

Should parents be allowed to pull their children out of core curriculum courses on human sexuality?

The Manitoba Teachers' Society couldn't decide at its annual general meeting Friday.

Teachers were so badly split over demanding the province not allow parents to pull their children out of core curriculum courses, they eventually tabled the proposal without a vote.

Seven Oaks teacher Mike Mann repeatedly stressed all children should take human-sexuality classes so all kids can feel safe in school.

"The intent is to make sure that schools are safe for all," Mann said.

One Steinbach teacher said no one is trying to tell children to turn against their parents' beliefs -- but they should be taught to understand all beliefs and views, and not just the culture in which they are growing up.

But others warned forcing children to take human-sexuality classes, and to learn about other subjects such as evolution, could drive those families into private schools or home schooling.

MTS president Paul Olson said some of the comments made left MTS staff scrambling to verify whether there are Hutterite public schools in which teachers are avoiding the topic of evolution.

Several teachers warned Hutterite schools would leave the public school system, taking with them teachers' jobs, if parents can't opt their children out of human sexuality.

Park West teacher Adam Grabowski told delegates the principal of a Hutterite school told him the school would leave the public system if forced to teach sexuality, and Grabowski predicted other faith groups would remove their children.

One teacher from Frontier School Division accused her colleagues of wanting to bully parents who don't share their views about sexual orientation and other issues.

"I would hate, as a public school teacher, to pull my own child out," said Winnipeg School Division teacher Pat Wood.

Brandon teacher Sherilynn Bambridge said she wants her own children to take the entire curriculum, even when it does not fit with her family's beliefs.

"I am a creationist, I am not an evolutionist," she said. "I have never taken my kids out of any course."

In other topics at the annual general meeting:

-- The close to 300 delegates could not agree on setting a policy on a potential aboriginal public school division.

Every few years, a group comes forward proposing to create an aboriginal public school division, using existing schools, on the model of the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine when it was formed in the early 1990s.

No proposal has ever gone very far.

"There were too many unanswered questions," said Olson.

-- The Manitoba Teachers' Society will ask the province for a way to file complaints if educational assistants perform duties the Public Schools Act says should only be carried out by a teacher.

"We love EAs," Olson said. "It's not that EAs are muscling in on our work.

"It's a coping strategy" because there aren't enough teachers or resource staff to handle everything that needs to be done, so a teacher's aide gets assigned, he said.

Within tight education budgets, classroom aides are the system's largest growth area.

-- Teachers are also edgy about how much time it will take to learn how to use the new province-wide standard reports cards. Some want a half day of in-service, some a full day, while others want training that doesn't count against their annual professional development time.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca