Public sex-health nurses in Catholic schools: are they benefitting the students or doing harm? As a part-time supply teacher at the secondary level, I get to see things from a unique perspective, how schools vary in principals’ and teachers’ and students’ approaches to teaching and learning.

I am also the coordinator of Kitchener-Waterloo and Area Right to Life Association. The K-W RTL is an educational branch of the pro-life movement in Canada. Our mission is to promote the sanctity of life from the moment of conception until natural death. We encourage healthy lifestyles with the practice of abstinence through chastity.

As in all school systems there is a serious problem of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) and teen pregnancies in Catholic schools. There is much concern with the influence of public sex-health nurses in the schools. I think there is good reason!

As I was walking toward the office at one of the secondary schools, I happened upon a sign on a door that read, “Public sex health nurse visits the school one half day a week (Tues. a.m.). All visits strictly confidential. Make an appointment, etc.”

Whoa! Red Light! Stop! Something was not right with this situation: public sex-health nurses in Catholic schools. There is a conflict of interest between the job mandate and what is promised, that leaves students at a high risk of receiving instruction that is contrary to Catholic teaching. True Catholic values cannot be exchanged for a common value system like that offered by the public health department. We tread on dangerous ground when we hand over students to a system whose mandate is presenting the option of abortion and the promotion of contraception, even if we have a written agreement that that line will not be crossed. There seemed to be danger of misrepresentation.

Teaching the Faith can provide for a wonderful expression of living the Catholic experience. A nurse who reflects Catholic values and who is not employed by a public system as such, could better handle STD and pregnancy counselling. Money could be made available to hire such nurses.

A question for school officials is this: What is the basis of trust in public health sex education, whose mandate is contraceptive counselling and abortion referral? If the language of protocol, i.e., the “right to choose,” were to be considered, then student clients would hear that they couldn’t be counselled for contraceptive use or abortion referral at the school. If however, the student would like to speak further about her situation, then she might do so with a nurse or doctor at one of the available clinics around town. There she would be given all the options. The student client might have a difficult time resisting the advice of the nurse since she is looking for a solution to her problem.

Timing is crucial. The student is in a vulnerable and often frightened state. The direction she is pointed in can profoundly influence a young, maturing mind. Instead of being reinforced by the teachings of her Faith through a counsellor employed by the school, she is exposed to a different protocol through public health. The student partially knows the ways of the world. It just now has become relevant in her life. The moral decision made in choosing a path at this stage is critical and can be life altering. She is at great risk of accepting without question. Will the nurses be able to provide unbiased counsel?