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Updated: Fri, 11 Jul 2014 08:00:18 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Teen, mother launch complaint against abstinence-based sex ed



Kathy Dawson and her daughter Emily Dawson, 18, now have a complaint before the Alberta Human Rights Commission over a sexual education course Emily had to take last year. CBC

Kathy Dawson and her daughter Emily Dawson, 18, now have a complaint before the Alberta Human Rights Commission over a sexual education course Emily had to take last year. CBC

An Edmonton high school student and her mother have filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission over a sex education class delivered by a religious-based group.

Last year, Emily Dawson, 18,  took part in a two-day class delivered as part of the Career and Life Management course at McNally High School.

The teenager says she was shocked by what she heard.

“Basically shaming the girls and making them gatekeepers and meanwhile making it sound like the boys had no impulse control,” she said.  

The Edmonton Public School Board used the Pregnancy Care Centre to conduct the course.  The centre is affiliated with Care-Net, an American based anti-abortion movement. Both groups focus on advocating abstinence from sex.

“I have a friend that is a lesbian and she was asking what would happen if she didn't want to stay abstinent and then the educator said, ‘We're not here to talk about that,’” Dawson said.

Course meets provincial standards 

Kathy Dawson says she tried to pull her daughter Emily out of the class for the second day. But she says the school informed her that Emily had to take the class in order to pass her course.  

So she joined her daughter in the classroom. A single mother, Dawson said she was shocked what students were told about families like hers.

“Well, that our children are prone to depression, suicide, juvenile delinquency,” she said.

The remarks also surprised her daughter.

“It’s not something that you hear every day where you’re getting bashed for being in a single-parent home.”

Kathy Dawson was also upset the class appeared to focus on values instead of science. 

"I don't want them in the secular school," she said. "They may have a spot in the Catholic school ... because they are faith-based.

"My issue isn't with them ... because it's such a wide variety of families going to these (public) schools, let's leave the science to the school and the values to the parents."

Dawson started a petition and complained to the school board. Board officials investigated and found the course met the standards set by Alberta Education.  

“Our administration have looked into this in the district and they're confident that students in Edmonton public schools are receiving the sex education set by Alberta Education,” said Michael Janz, a trustee and deputy chairman of the board.

“So in the absence of new information, I remain supportive.”

The Alberta Human Rights Commission has now accepted the Dawsons' complaint. 

“I'm training up my kids to respect science and demand science in their education,” Kathy Dawson said. “So this is a long haul, and I'm fully prepared to take it all the way."

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