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Sex ed starts in Grade 2

John Thompson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 02/05) - The high abortion rate in the NWT raises the question: what sort of sex education is taking place in schools?

Sex ed varies from district to district, said Elaine Stewart, the territorial co-ordinator for early childhood and school services. "We never know exactly what they're being told," she said. However, all schools must ensure students learn common information in the family life unit.

Students in Grade 2 begin talking about reproduction in animals, and by as early as Grade 3 children start talking about human reproduction.

Grade 4 students begin learning about puberty, the names of reproductive parts and the female menstrual cycle. Grade 5 concentrates on puberty.

"It just becomes more sophisticated," she said. "By Grade 7, we're clearly talking about intercourse and abstinence and contraception. And, of course, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)."

Before Grade 9, students must take another program that focuses on STDs, different contraceptives and abstinence.

"It's not the preachy sort of 'Thou Shalt Not' health information," she said. The program also helps students learn how to talk comfortably about sex and sexuality.

Yellowknife Catholic Schools follows the Alberta Catholic health curriculum, says Claudia Parker, assistant superintendent-learning.

A unit on human sexuality begins in Grade 4, which she describes as a small part of the health curriculum.

Because the Catholic Church doesn't believe in using contraceptives, access to condoms or other birth control isn't discussed.

"Basically, our health curriculum says we have to teach the beliefs of the church," she said. "Chastity is what we teach."

Health centres have condoms available for students.