By Bonny Burrows
Officer Secondary College parents have backed the school’s curriculum, following media claims they are outraged abstinence from sex is being promoted to Year 8 students.
The local school made state headlines on 11 August after an email was distributed to parents, alerting them that abstinence would be taught as part of the school’s Respectful Relationships program.
The email circulated on 8 August has been seen by the Gazette and informs parents what will be taught as part of the upcoming term three health studies curriculum.
“Topics that will be covered in this unit include types of respectful relationships (recognising healthy/unhealthy relations), the pressures placed on young people, how to live a healthy life and avoid risky behaviours (abstinence), contraception and STIs,” the email reads.
“We recognise that our students and their families have a range of beliefs, cultures and customs. These family values are core, essential guidelines for your child’s life.
“We intend to ensure all information is age appropriate and will employ our school nurse … to assist in the delivery of curriculum and activities.”
It was reported across various media outlets that parents felt the school was creating a “culture of shame” by encouraging its Year 8 students – aged between 13 and 15 – to “delay sex”.
However, when contacted by the Gazette parents were quick to jump to the school’s defence.
Raylene Marsh, a mother of a Year 8 boy attending Officer Secondary, slammed the misrepresentation of the situation by the unidentified parents quoted in several news stories.
Ms Marsh said the email had been misinterpreted by some parents and media alike, who had jumped on one line – “our shared goal is to delay sexual activity in school-aged youth”.
She praised the school for promoting safe sex practices and previous subjects on drug and alcohol use and said she grateful for the email alerting parents of the upcoming curriculum.
“I think Officer Secondary College is doing all us parents a favour by helping us teach our children the right tools to not get themselves in trouble and encouraging them to wait until their older and in a healthy relationship to go to the next step,” Ms Marsh said.
Like it or not, she said, but at 13 and 14, students were becoming young adults, who in the next years may start experimenting with sex, “even if we don’t want them to”.
“What’s the outrage? No-one wants a teenage pregnancy or their child becoming a father or mother at age 14,” Ms Marsh said.
“So why not teach them precautions?”
Ms Marsh said parents had been giving the option of opting their child out of the curriculum if they so wished.
“I cannot fault Officer Secondary College, especially in regards to its curriculum and I’m baffled at the outrage,” she said.
“I am behind the school 100 per cent.”
In a statement to the Gazette, Officer Secondary College assistant principal Hamish Moffett said the email did not “reflect the educational program being delivered”.
“The Health and PE program at Officer SC aims to educate students in being respectful, responsible and informed,” Mr Moffett said.