Planned Parenthood said Saskatchewan education minister Dustin Duncan’s decision to suspend the organization from presenting in schools on Thursday came as a surprise.
“We were mostly surprised,” said Planned Parenthood executive director Julian Wotherspoon. “This was a decision that was made without contacting us to ask about our programs or any of the resources or services that we provide, so it was disappointing news.”
The ministry’s decision came after a presentation with sexual material occurred at a high school in Lumsden, Sask., according to Duncan.
The material consisted of graphic sexual vocabulary through letters of the alphabet.
Planned Parenthood did not present the material to the classroom, but one student obtained a pamphlet separately.
“It wasn’t part of what we were there to present, but when we bring secondary resources with us, none of the educators know everything and often times we will have youth come up to us after and ask us about their own experience or things that they are really curious about and it’s nice to have a box of things we can rifle through so they can get connected with the information that they need,” Wotherspoon explained.
The pamphlet titled SEX: From A-Z describes itself as “a set of cards intended for gay, bi, and queer young people. This is a fun and accessible resource that facilitates humorous and frank discussion among young people about sexuality and HIV and STI prevention. It can also be used by service providers as a discussion tool in workshops and training sessions.”
Planned Parenthood recognized that the pamphlet had not been approved by the school prior to bringing it to the building, regardless of it not being formally presented.
“Normally, we wouldn’t have had information in there that the teachers hadn’t been familiar with and so going forward that is better communication that we will be having,” Wotherspoon said.
She said she wasn’t made aware the pamphlets were taken to the school until the next day and said the organization immediately contacted the school and its educators.
“We let them know how to handle questions about it and making sure that they had the tools to talk about it, knowing they would likely get some phone calls from parents,” Wotherspoon said, adding she thought that would have been the end of it.
Minister Duncan said the material was “completely inappropriate.”
“(It) has no part being in a classroom,” Duncan said. “We want to make sure that the material is not going to be part of the resources that will be provided to students.”
Wotherspoon said that inclusive resources are vital to the sexual health of LGBTQ2 youth and this incident is a barrier for them.
“It’s really concerning to me that the resources that are being targeted are resources that are specifically produced by and for LGBTQ2 youth to really demystify sex and sexualities that have been hidden, stigmatized and outlawed at some point in our history that aren’t represented in the curriculum,” Wotherspoon said.
“Every youth deserves to have information that is relevant to them.”
Duncan said the ministry will review the province’s sexual education material to ensure it is age appropriate.
He says the ministry should wrap up the review by September, adding that Planned Parenthood could again be allowed to present in schools.
Planned Parenthood said they have not yet been contacted by the ministry.
– with files from Global News’ Andrew Benson