Wednesday, June 25, 2008

To Hell in a handbasket....

No pulling kids from gay-friendly classes, Vancouver parents told
Allison Cross, Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, June 23, 2008

VANCOUVER - The Vancouver board of education says it plans to enforce a ministry policy that prevents parents from pulling students out of classes that deal with alternative sexuality.

A recent staff recommendation from the Vancouver board of education says parents can pull their children out of sensitive lessons in health classes because of religious or family beliefs, but can't opt their children out of gay-friendly lessons in any other classes.

The recommendation, released Friday, sets out detailed guidelines and procedures the district intends to distribute to schools.

"We're expected to do that by the (Education) ministry, so it's not something we've initiated of our own volition," said Ken Denike, a Vancouver school board trustee.

According to ministry guidelines, students can only opt out of the health portions of Health and Career Education K to 7, Health and Career Education 8 and 9, and Planning 10.

They aren't exempt from the lessons completely and must learn the material outside the classroom setting, by home instruction or self-directed studies.

They also have to prove they've learned the material.

Edward Da Vita, a spokesman for the Catholic Civil Rights League, said he would prefer parents be able to pull their children out of any class containing controversial material. "The problem now is that controversial subject matter can be brought up any time, anywhere, and there is no reasonable alternative delivery available for that," he said.

The league has long fought the policies.

The ministry guidelines stem from a contract the government signed with gay activists Murray and Peter Corren. The couple launched a human-rights case against the government, which ended the lawsuit by signing an agreement to add teachings about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered issues to the provincial curriculum.

Education Minister Shirley Bond sent a letter to school districts in the fall of 2006, stating that parents can only remove students from the health classes they object to.

Denike said he anticipates some negative feedback from parents and the community as the issue resurfaces.

"It's a very touchy subject," he said. "It has to be handled sensitively. It's going to be difficult."

Sean Murphy, another spokesman for the Catholic league, said Vancouver parents might still be able to control which classes children attend.

"Any parent who is determined may be successful in getting an exemption," he said.

© Vancouver Sun 2008

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