Tue | Mar 19, 2019

Two in hot water over sex text

Published:Sunday | October 28, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Thwaites

Education minister claims personal agenda led to controversial sections in school book

Edmund Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

DISCIPLINARY ACTION is now hanging over the head of a public servant who Education Minister Ronald Thwaites claims had an "agenda" in crafting the controversial sex-education text which was recently withdrawn from high schools.

At least 1,368 copies of the 6,000 health and family life education (HFLE) text, deemed by some to be very offensive, were pulled by the ministry after national uproar over the material that was intended for students between grades seven and nine.

One person who allegedly authored "inappropriate" elements of text has parted company with the education ministry.

But that is not the end of the matter.

"It appears that there were two persons, at least, involved in the process who had a particular agenda in respect of this particular subset of the curriculum and they were able to embed it in the curriculum, and there was not sufficient review to extirpate it before publication," Thwaites said last week in response to questions posed by Opposition spokesperson on education Marisa Dalrymple Philibert.

"As far as those who, investigation so far determined, played an untoward part in the writing of this (HFLE), one such person is no longer in the service of the ministry and the other person will be subject to the appropriate disciplinary action that the public service provides," the education minister told fellow legislators.

Intense debate played out on the airwaves and in letters to newspaper editors, in September, about a section of the text which posed questions on sexual behaviour and commentary on heterosexuality and homosexuality.

Angry parents at the time demanded to know who approved the text, despite its withdrawal.

Responding to similar concerns from Dalrymple Philibert, who is the member of parliament for South Trelawny and the Opposition spokesperson on education, Thwaites said an investigation conducted by his ministry revealed that the curriculum was introduced into schools when it was given to teachers who were trained to use it in August 2011.

formal process bypassed

He said copies were distributed to schools before they were withdrawn.

Thwaites made it clear that the formal process of the ministry to approve curriculum was bypassed.

He said then Chief Education Officer Grace McLean did not know of the inappropriate curriculum.

"No Minister of Education of whatever political stripe would have knowingly allowed material as obnoxious as that contained in the HFLE curriculum to have been published," Thwaites declared.

He also informed the House that the ministry had issued warnings when similar material found its way into the schools in the past.

"It was a clear intention of some who have very laudable views in other respects, but also have very clear predispositions regarding sexual conduct and how children are to be introduced to (it) who got away on this one.

"The important thing now is that we make it quite clear to this Parliament, to those who serve as administrators and public officials and to the nation as a whole, that the primary responsibility for introducing young children to sexual knowledge and responsibility lies with the parents," the education minister stressed.

Setting the record straight in relation to the ministry's position on sex and family life education, Thwaites added: "The principles that must be at all times respected is that the Ministry of Education promotes sexually responsible behaviour in the context of faithful union between a man and woman while offering respect and compassion to those who adopt a different lifestyle."