By Roselle Paulsen, Director of Programs, SERC
Sexuality is a complex, integral part of life. It includes all aspects of who we are – our values and beliefs, bodies, desires, relationships, gender, and our thoughts and feelings about all of these. Our sexuality naturally shifts and changes throughout our lives. It is affected by our understanding of the cultures in which we live and our life experiences. Awareness of our sexuality and how we express it is a key determinant of our own health and wellness. As such, it is essential that youth have the opportunity to learn information and skills and to address attitudes regarding such an important part of their ongoing lives.
SERC (Sexuality Education Resource Centre MB) is committed to providing comprehensive sexuality education which is inclusive, culturally safe, and anti-oppressive to effectively respond to society’s diversity. Sexuality education goes beyond lesson plans in the classroom, to how the whole school community gives messages about identity, choice, respect, consent and acceptance.
Sexuality education for students is embedded within our provincial physical education/health education curriculum. It was designed to address significant risk behaviours as identified by the Canadian Centres for Disease Control and Prevention; and it is the responsibility of every school division to ensure that students receive this health education. All individuals have the right to comprehensive sexuality education that supports them in making informed choices for themselves.
For some students, school is a safe place where they fit in and thrive. For others, school is something to survive. Being inclusive and celebrating diversity means creating a safe place where all students and staff feel safe and accepted. Everyone belongs.
Bill 18 legislation amending the Public Schools Act stands to ensure that our schools are safe inclusive spaces for all students and that there is respect for human diversity and human rights.
School divisions, schools, administration and faculty have a responsibility to enact Bill 18 requirements. SERC believes that they need to support respect and caring for every individual, regardless of personal beliefs, and free from discrimination based on age, race, color, sexual orientation, ability, gender; gender identity, gender expression, status related to sexually transmitted infections, religion, national or ethnic origin, marital status, family status, pregnancy, socioeconomic status, or political belief.
In light of recent events in southern Manitoba and in Orlando, education to reduce ignorance and hate, and to build respect and acceptance, is a necessity. What an amazing privilege schools have – to foster universal values of rights, responsibility and respect for all.