School sex text withdrawn over controversial content
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday September 19, 2012 – Minister of Education Reverend Ronald Thwaites has recalled the Health and Family Life Education Programme curriculum from high schools following controversy over its graphic sexual content.
The Sexuality and Sexual Health: Personal Risk and Assessment Checklist segment of the third edition of the curriculum geared at grades seven to nine apparently disturbed many parents and teachers and called into question the process by which curricula were approved by the Ministry of Education.
The curriculum, which was developed for Caribbean schools under the auspices of a number of local and international bodies, including the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Ministry of Health, sought to determine whether grade seven to nine students had ever been involved in homosexual and heterosexual sex.
It included a unit that introduced children to different types of sexual orientation, the stated objective of which, according to the curriculum, was to encourage children to be more tolerant of others who were different.
Among the questions posed in this unit to students were: “Have you ever had anal sex?” “Have you ever had anal sex without a condom?” “How many sexual partners have you had?” “Do you know your HIV status?” “If you have never slept with a member of your own sex, is it possible you might be gay if you tried it?”
The text also instructed students to perform a number of exercises to better understand their sexuality. One suggested that children should sing a song about which body part gave them the most pleasure. Another encouraged the visualisation of a world where they were heterosexual but everyone else was gay.
In a news release on Friday, Thwaites ordered the curriculum pulled, saying some of the material was "inappropriate".
"I have been made aware of widespread public concern about certain sections of the health and family life education programme curriculum used in Jamaican schools. There is strong objection to some of the questions on sexual behaviour and the commentary on heterosexuality/homosexuality," the minister said.
"I consider sections of the material inappropriate for any age and certainly for the grade seven and eight students for which it is designed.
"I have instructed that the material be withdrawn from all schools and rewritten then redistributed so as to prevent disruption of the health and family life education instruction," he added.
Thwaites noted that the content of the segment on Sexuality and Sexual Health of the curriculum, which was revised over a two-year period 2009-2011 and distributed to schools last September, was first brought to his attention on Thursday.
"The family life values espoused by the Ministry of Education are those based on the Christian principles of sexual morality as well as compassion and tolerance for all persons," the release said.
The text was used as a teaching manual and was not on the students' book list.