Columbia Valley Pioneer staff
Rocky Mountain School District No. 6 has given first reading to a policy that would allow students and their parents to arrange for “alternate delivery” of sensitive educational topics.
The physical and health education K-9 and 10 curriculum have certain topics related to reproduction and sexuality that some students may find uncomfortable learning in a regular classroom setting. That’s why the board is looking at offering alternate learning arrangements. These must be in consultation with the school, and does not mean students can opt out of the curriculum; they still must adequately demonstrate their knowledge of these topics.
There are several ways alternate delivery can be accommodated, such as home instruction using school (or other agreed-upon) materials. Self-directed study is another method.
Assistant Superintendent Steve Wyer said the alternative delivery approach is a Ministry of Education policy related only to the content of the physical education and health curriculum. He noted this is the only curricular area in which alternate delivery is allowed.
Wyer pointed out that the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) resource that school districts are looking at is a separate issue that is not factored into the alternate delivery model.
“SOGI is not a curriculum and is not contemplated by the Ministry in this policy.”
Wyer said it is important to note the significance of the term ‘alternative delivery,” adding this policy does not permit schools to omit addressing or assessing any of the required learning standards within the physical and health curriculum.
“Neither does it allow students to be excused from meeting any learning standards related to health,” he said.
Wyer explained that the policy recognizes the family as the primary educator in the development of children’s attitudes, standards, and values. But it still requires that all learning standards be addressed.
He said families would notify schools about their wishes for alternative delivery. The school would then work with the family to determine how student understanding (of the material) would be assessed.
Wyer recently presented school trustees with an informational update on the SOGI resource. The key word here is “inclusion” where every student is made to feel that they belong regardless of how they identify themselves.
Wyer said SOGI applies to everyone. “Regardless of how one identifies, the term is inclusive.” But he acknowledged there is some inaccurate information circulating about SOGI, noting there are people who see this resource as divisive, which has led to protests. He pointed out that SOGI 123 has been in existence in BC education for seven years, adding that it advances the priority of equity, diversity and inclusion in order to make everyone feel safe and welcomed in school.
“Rather than focus on the teaching of inclusion, protest groups seek to place the focus on the aspects of sexual orientation and gender,” Wyer said, adding the district is ensuring the education is all about inclusion.
Wyer indicated that acknowledging and sharing your pronouns in the early grades is not likely to be developmentally appropriate since students at this age don’t fully understand their own identity or what inclusion means. But for senior students, pronouns (they/them) are acknowledged because it “allows people of marginalized gender to feel safe and included,” Wyer explained.
He said principals are aware of this and monitoring SOGI activities to ensure they are consistently connected to the larger goal of inclusion.
“Sensitive topics require a gentle approach in diverse communities. Without careful school planning and communication, educators run the risk of further alienating those we seek to include,” he stated.