Catholic Civil Rights League asks education ministry to retract statement about orientation in curricula
By Brent Mattson
The B.C. Catholic
VANCOUVER--The Burnaby School District continues to be a focal point in the debate between freedom of religion and inclusiveness in the province's schools. This time the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) is fighting a letter the Ministry of Education director sent to parents in Burnaby.
Curriculum and assessment director Nancy Walt wrote to parents in August stating, "learning about different sexual orientations . . . is currently part of the provincial curricula and is expected to be taught."
In an Oct. 11 press release, the CCRL demanded a retraction and apology from the ministry for the comment. Former director Sean Murphy wrote that the provincial curriculum's "prescribed learning outcomes" do not refer to sexual orientation.
"Such misrepresentation by a government employee is completely unacceptable and warrants a retraction and an apology to the people to whom Ms. Walt's letter was directed," Murphy said.
As of Oct. 21, the league had not heard a response from the ministry. The B.C. Catholic phoned the Ministry of Education, but did not receive a response before press time.
Murphy added that the ministry has not offered alternative methods for teaching sexual orientation, but has said it is willing to make exceptions for students and parents who object to other non-curricula subject matter.
"(Walt) said that alternative delivery was available for animal dissection because animal dissection is not in the curriculum," he wrote. "Well, neither is 'sexual orientation.'"
Joanne McGarry, the league's executive director, says she believes that Walt likely meant the topic of sexual orientation comes in health, planning, and career education courses.
However, she agrees with Murphy that sexual orientation does not appear in the prescribed learning outcomes, which she says underlines the need for parents to take the lead on these issues.
"These things are not black and white, so there's room for some interpretation here," McGarry said. "I think parents should always review curriculum and if they have a problem they should talk to the teacher. Ninety-five percent of problems can be ironed out at that level."
The league is also asking the Ministry of Education to unequivocally state whether it allows school districts, administrators, and teachers to have the authority to accommodate alternate delivery programs in all subjects in the event of an issue involving freedom of conscience and religion.
McGarry once again stressed the importance of parents taking a proactive approach to their children's education, especially when they object to course subject matter.
"The reason why you can't withdraw your kids from these classes is because nobody's ever asked to," she said. "The best thing we can all do about educational matters is wake up and pay attention to it."