School health text labels unwed women "cheap prostitutes"

NZ SECONDARY school students were this week handed a pamphlet branding women in de facto relationships "cheap prostitutes" and "wicked fornicators", and saying "death and hell" awaited those having gay sex.

The material, produced by the American-based Bible Baptist Publications, was handed out to year 11 students at Christchurch's co-ed Papanui High School during a health studies class.

The mother of a 15-year-old girl who brought home a copy of the text to study and answer a series of questions has now lodged a formal complaint with the school.

A Ministry of Education official said it was "rare" for such material to be distributed, and Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said it should be pulled from the classroom.

But principal Jeff Smith said the literature was part of a resource package the school used to help encourage students to make "informed" relationship decisions.

"The intent of their lesson is to enable students to see there is a range of material available and that students need to make informed decisions based on that," he said.

Smith met Christchurch mother Lydia Clark, whose daughter was among the students handed the document, on Friday.

She had earlier written a series of posts on the Secular Education Network's Facebook page complaining about the teaching, including posting a copy of a letter of complaint she had written to the school.

She stated in the letter that children growing up in households not featuring heterosexual wedded couples "should not be given literature as part of school work that tells them their father is 'such a coward he can't even ask for her to be his wife' or that their mothers are 'nothing more than a cheap prostitute'."

The religious document said of women in a de facto relationship: "She's nothing more than a cheap prostitute who allows herself to be used for his sexual gratification in exchange for what seems to be a stable and secure home life."

Clark met Smith, her daughter's teacher and another senior teacher on Friday, telling the Herald on Sunday that her initial concerns came from "an unfortunate misunderstanding".

"The meeting has gone well. They have explained the context of the lesson in which the pamphlet was given to my daughter, and listened to and discussed my concerns," she said.

"It was made clear this was not an instance of anybody pushing their own religious doctrines on students."

The school will continue to use the document, but teachers would ensure students were clear on its context.

Hipkins said it was unacceptable such a publication was handed around in the classroom.

He said it was not appropriate for schools to use and called on the school to stop issuing it.

"It's fine for schools to be using stuff to provoke kids into thinking but there's a fine line between provoking critical thought and something that's offensive," he said. "That, I think, crosses the line."

There was nothing wrong with schools promoting robust debate but the wording of the Baptist material was "unwise".

Ministry of Education head of student achievement Dr Graham Stoop said health lessons should provide opportunities for students to develop their knowledge and understanding of sexual development, as well as encourage attitudes of respect and care for themselves and others.

"From our knowledge of how schools are teaching sexuality education it would be rare for a pamphlet like this to be distributed."

- Herald on Sunday



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