An elementary school in Alert Bay is facing a backlash after a page from a sex education worksheet was posted on social media.
The worksheet, which asks students to “draw a picture of private places where you can touch your penis or vulva if you wish,” was distributed to kindergarten students at T’lisa̱lagi’lakw School in the ‘Namgis First Nation as part of a physical health and body safety education program.
The original Facebook post has been deleted. However, a Twitter post sharing the image and saying the students had been “sent home on a masturbation mission” received just over 13,000 likes and was retweeted around 5,500 times.
“Namgis First Nation Chief Don Svanvik said an investigation is ongoing and administration officials are reviewing the incident, as well as the standards for the physical and health education curriculum at the school. .
The worksheet is one page from the 94-page sexual abuse prevention manual Body Smart from the start by Certified Sexual Health Educator Kerri Isham. It is designed for children aged three to eight.
Nanaimo-based Isham is the author of three books on sex education and runs a sexual health consulting business, Power Up Education. She said families are meant to work together on the book, helping children understand what is safe and appropriate.
The page shared on social media aims to teach children where it’s safe to touch, she said, noting that “all families have different rules when it comes to masturbation.”
“Some kids like to touch their private parts and some don’t – it’s true, there’s no debating that,” she said. “And if you are going to do it, you can only do it in a private place. Where are your private places? And they draw a picture of [their] bathroom or bedroom. »
Isham admits that if she was a parent and received the notebook page without context, she would also be surprised. “Out of context and without a written explanation, of course, I can see the parents upset about this,” she said. “It is also difficult for teachers to teach this subject. They don’t have the training, they don’t necessarily have the resources, you see they don’t have the support of the parents, they may not have the support of their managers. When they teach it, they get in trouble and they’re ashamed of it.
The Department of Education’s curriculum emphasizes the need for body and safety education for K-10 students, but teachers choose their own resources and topics.
Isham said she has received hate emails and death threats since the message went viral, but she is adamant that sex education helps keep children safe.
“Teaching early does not rob our children of their innocence,” she said. “But sexual abuse will be.”
The ‘Namgis First Nation said the council and administration are taking steps “to address concerns and reassess all areas of education delivery at T’lisa̱lagi’lakw School,” including an assessment of the approval process for sensitive topics.