In late January, the Education Committee of the Renfrew County Separate (Catholic) School Board (RCSSB) ignored the formal recommendations of a group of parents alarmed over the introduction of premature sex ed.

Since late November 1989, Parents in Control has skirmished with the local Catholic school board over the parental right to provide sex education.

Renfrew County is located some 150 kilometers northwest of Ottawa.

In the most recent encounter, Parents in Control met with trustees of the RCSSB to convey their objections to the board’s Fully Alive program.

“We’re not out to make enemies,” said Parents in Control co-founder Nancy Gleason. “But we feel that now is the time to stop school-based sex education. The locomotive is just starting to leave the train station; we can still stop it,” she added.

In mid-October 1989, Mrs. Gleason, a mother of three, and her husband, Larry, published an open letter in the Pembroke Observer asking to hear from parents concerned about Vie Famille et Education Sexuelle, the French counterpart to the Fully Alive sex ed program. The result was Parents in Control.

Now at approximately 150 members, the group first went public November 22, 1989 at Pembroke’s Lorrain Centre with a demand that the board shelve the sex-ed component of the Fully Alive program until at least grade 5. Although invited, board officials Jim Fogarty, co-ordinator of the English Fully Alive program, and Kathleen Gorr, co-ordinator for the French version, declined to attend. The situation remained in a stalemate.

On January 15 Parents in Control went before board trustees with a carefully researched brief. Mrs. Gleason told The Interim that the authors of the brief went out of their way to draw on non-biased studies.

These included

– An analysis of the Fully Alive program by Dr. W.J. Mahoney, Assistant Professor of Child Psychology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He found that sex-ed interferes with the latency period of early childhood.

– A 1968-1981 survey from the Ontario Ministry of Health. When they were asked a number of questions pertaining to their personal health, including one on sexuality, children did not begin to express any serious concerns until a minimum of age 10. This is four years after the beginning of formal sex education in the Fully Alive program.

The brief found that the creators of the sex ed program paid nothing more than lip service to the principles enunciated in the great encyclical of Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, a document quoted with considerable self-congratulation in the preface to Fully Alive.

“At the local level, which parents, and how many were involved in formulating the family life program Fully Alive for the Renfrew County?”, the brief asked rhetorically. By all accounts, so few participated in the sex-ed assessment that the Gleasons had to warn unsuspecting parents of what had been done from the letters page of the local newspaper.

To rectify this state of affairs, Parents in Control recommended mandatory parental consent from every family whose child would be exposed to any form of sex education within the Renfrew County Separate School system.

Other recommendations included:

– a delay in the introduction of the “sexuality concept” until at the very least grade 5.

– alternative courses for children whose parents have withdrawn them from the program.

– recognition of the essential right of all parents in the draft of a family life/sex ed program.

Since then Parents in Control has learned that the Education Committee has flatly disregarded the brief. “What they’ve basically said is that we appreciate your presentation, but we can’t meet any of your requests or recommendations,” Mrs. Gleason said. “But we should’ve expected as much when one trustee informed us that we can’t go to the parents for every decision,” she admitted.

After the Education Committee let out their decision, Parents in Control called a public meeting January 31 at Pembroke’s Lorrain Centre. They urged all sympathetic senior citizens, childless couples or parents whose children are not in the school system, and who are RCSSB taxpayers, to withdraw their financial support.