Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
The Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) says there was a breach of protocol in the publication of the controversial Health and Family Life Education text, which was introduced into the local school system at the start of the 2012-13 school year.
The Sexuality and Sexual Health: Personal Risk and Assessment Checklist, which is included in the book, created a major uproar among parents and other stakeholders who took strong objection to its content, which included a so-called alternative sexual lifestyle.
In the heat of the controversy, Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites pulled the text, which was designed for grades seven to nine students, from the school system.
In weighing in on the controversy, JTA President Clayton Hall said the text had bypassed the main education stakeholder groups on its way to reaching the classroom.
"There seem to have been some breach in the protocol for the publishing of those documents. The revised publication somehow circumvented the stated protocols for publishing. As such, we had those unfortunate questions being included in the text," said Hall.
According to Hall, under the usual procedure, the documents should be shared with stakeholder groups, including teachers, parents, the National Parent-Teacher Association and school administrators, before being introduced into the classroom.
"It should also have been seen and scrutinised by the co-curricular unit, and probably this document should have been developed by the guidance department or the guidance counselling unit," added Hall.
"Right now, I am not sure which of the steps were not included, but from a teacher standpoint, we were not invited to a review of this document."
Hall said the JTA sees the questions posed in the text as being unsuitable and therefore they should never have been introduced to students in the first place.
"We concur wholeheartedly with the sentiments that this kind of information, how the content was presented, is inappropriate for students at that age. We have actually taught drug abuse and sex education in schools for quite a long time, and from our standpoint, the questions posed are in no way leading to the development of a good habit or knowledge about sexual reproductive health that we want to teach our students," Hall said.
The JTA president noted that the way forward rests solely with the Ministry of Education which, he said, must do due diligence to ensure that things to be published, especially those things that are to find their way into schools, go through proper checks and balances.
"From the association standpoint, we will remain vigilant and we will continue to review any new documents placed in our schools and provide the relevant feedback to the agencies and groups responsible for their introduction and correction," concluded Hall.