Ministry seeks student input on sex-ed review
Students will be asked for input in a new review of sex-education policy in schools following a petition organized by a 17-year-old girl.
The local chapter of the Red Cross backed the petition from Madeleine Rowell calling for a consistent, age-appropriate program of sex education in the islands’ schools.
The Cayman Islands Department of Education says it already teaches sex education as part of its lifeskills curriculum, which also involves drug and health education.
Ms. Rowell believes this is not enough and would like to see a more comprehensive program, including access to information, testing and contraception to help reduce the risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among Caymanian youth.
Her views appear to have hit home.
A spokeswoman for the education department said, “Clearly, students are interested in this topic since a large number have signed the petition.
“This indicates that we need to revisit the policy and the provision to make sure it is more closely aligned to student needs that inevitably change over time.
“Students have not previously been engaged in the formulation of the policy and provision. We will be actively engaging young people to assist us in the process, as well as drawing on the expertise of the Red Cross, the Department of Counselling Services and other relevant community stakeholders.”
The ministry’s current policy was reviewed and approved in February of this year. The next review was not scheduled into 2016.
But education officials say they will push this forward in light of the petition.
The current policy is outlined on the ministry’s website. Sex education is not included in primary schools currently, other than through aspects of the science curriculum.
For secondary school students, sex education is included, though parents have the right to withdraw their children.
The policy document states, “All government secondary schools must provide sex and relationship education (including education about HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases) and must teach human growth and reproduction as set out in the national curriculum.”
It continues, “The principal must ensure that any sex education is provided in a way that encourages students to consider morals and the value of family life. Schools must inform parents prior to scheduled programs of sex and relationship education.”
The ministry said it had no direct influence over what happened in private schools but encouraged them to implement the same policy.
The spokeswoman added, “We thank and commend Madeleine Rowell and other students for raising an issue that is very important to young people and which concerns parents, teachers and the community.”