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P.E.I.’s updated sexual health curriculum still not enough, says PEERS Alliance

Rachel Bartlett grew up navigating the P.E.I. public school system.

From kindergarten to Grade 12, she found her sexual health education covered only the basics.

She was able to name body parts and genitalia, as well as learn about puberty.

“I do believe that a lot of the education that I received was sort of delayed… in the sense we didn’t learn about puberty until after we had already begun going through it.”

Even though sexually transmitted infections (STIs) were part of her education, she did not learn the other ways to contract them outside of penetrative heterosexual sex.

“There wasn’t any acknowledgement of queer relationships or any sort of gender and sexuality education at all.”

She also did not learn about consent or what to do if she were to contract an STI.

“There was a lot more fearmongering and not a lot of education on things like how to get tested and how to seek supports if you need them.”

Bartlett had to reach out to other sources.

“I’m very fortunate that I have a mother and parents that gave me access to information at an earlier age.”

A new sexual health curriculum was implemented in P.E.I. schools in 2020 aiming to expand on the pre-existing curriculum, as well as acknowledge sexuality, gender identity and gender expression.

The curriculum starts by introducing kids grades 1 to 5 to the idea of consent and boundaries. It then introduces the topic of puberty in Grade 6 and sexual health in grades 7 to 9.

Bartlett thinks the new curriculum is still not teaching enough.

As a youth program co-ordinator at PEERS Alliance, Bartlett and her team have different activities - like bingo, trivia and scavenger hunts - to teach youth about sexual health.

“Say we have 10 youth participate, almost always it’s 10 out of 10 who say they learned something they didn’t previously know. So seeing as many of our youth participants say that our safer sex and consent activities have taught them more about STBBIs, consent and navigating the health system on PEI than their classes, it’s likely that many aren’t receiving the in-depth sexual health education that they should be.”

Not only is sexual health education still not as comprehensive as it could be, it’s also not as inclusive.

“We also have sex lives. So it’s very important for us to also be able to be like ‘oh, actually, this is a thing that’s okay,’ right? See it in the world, see it in our schools and be like ‘oh, okay. I’m not wrong for the way that I feel’,” said Anastasia Preston, the trans community outreach co-ordinator at PEERS Alliance.
Anastasia Preston, trans community outreach co-ordinator at PEERS Alliance, wants P.E.I. public schools to make the sexual health curriculum more inclusive of trans and gender diverse people.
Anastasia Preston, trans community outreach co-ordinator at PEERS Alliance, wants P.E.I. public schools to make the sexual health curriculum more inclusive of trans and gender diverse people. Photo by Ezra Santana.

Preston thinks kids and teens should learn the same thing about queer relationships that they learn about straight relationships.

“I think those are little pieces that would have so much impact. The majority of trans women who are murdered, are murdered through intimate partner violence, and it’s generally because the man doesn’t want other people to find out that he slept with a trans woman.”

Even though there are online resources available online, Bartlett said the school curriculum should be updated to reflect the sexual orientation and gender identity diversity.

“Having the teachers who are teaching this education also be trained and prepared to answer questions that may not be regarding just heterosexual sex, because I think a lot of people are only prepared to answer what they know and if there isn’t a queer teacher teaching sexual health education then it’s less likely that they’re gonna have the knowledge to be able to answer those questions.”



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My name is Ezra (they/them) and I’m an aspiring storyteller who is half-way through a Journalism and Communications program at Holland College, P.E.I. 

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