A formal investigation is underway and parents are enraged after kindergarten students in Alert Bay were allegedly given a take-home assignment on touching their private body parts.
Social media posts claim students as young as 4-years-old from T’lisa̱lagi’lakw School of ‘Namgis First Nation, located northeast of Vancouver Island, were assigned a worksheet from the workbook Body Smart: Right From the Start.
“Some children like to touch their private body parts and some children don’t,” stated the assignment, before asking students to list the private places in their homes.
Certified sexual health educator Kerri Isham of Nanaimo-based Power Up Sexual Health Education penned the workbook, which is intended for children between the ages of three to ten and shines a light on sexual abuse prevention.
“Draw a picture of the private places where you can touch your penis or vulva if you want to,” the worksheet says.
“All families have different rules about masturbation (touching your own private parts). Talk to your family grown-ups about your family rules.”
In its description, Power Up encourages adults, including parents, counsellors and teachers, to use the material directly with a “little person.”
“The sexual, physical, mental, and spiritual safety of our children should be a top priority for everyone. The goal is to provide activities and discussions that will help increase abuse resistance,” wrote Power Up.
On Monday, Isham said “a lot of hate” had been coming her way, including threats.
“I have been called a pedophile more times than I can count, I’ve been called a groomer many, many times,” she recalled.
“I don’t care about what people call me, I care about the safety of our kids.”
According to Isham, children aged three and four are most at risk for sexual abuse because predators often count on the fact that they may not be verbal yet and aren’t fully educated.
“We are being negligent when we don’t give little people the private body part names … because they need to be able to know those names to report to a trusted adult when this is happening,” she said.
“I understand masturbation could be a triggering word for some people, but guess what, that’s the science word for touching private body parts.”
Despite online comments, Isham insists it wasn’t a “masturbation assignment.”
“The teacher sent it home to inform the parents to please go over with their child that we don’t touch our private parts in a public place,” she added.
Still, after T’lisa̱lagi’lakw School parents publicly voiced their concerns, the backlash started trickling in across social media.
“If your 4-year-old child came home with this homework, how would you feel … it wrecked my day and gave me a disgusting feeling,” wrote one parent on Facebook.
“I did call the school, and I’ll be doing a formal written complaint as well.”
‘Namgis First Nation says it’s “aware of activities” that have upset the community, particularly about physical health/body safety education at T’lisa̱lagi’lakw School.
“There is an active investigation currently underway. Administration is reviewing the matter at large, including curriculum standards regarding physical and health education at our school,” wrote Chief Don Svanvik in a statement.
“It is the priority of our ‘Namgis Council to ensure our young people are taken care of in a way that honours their safety, security, and well-being and reflects the values of our Nation.”
Svanvik says the Council is committed to resolving the matter, noting steps are being taken to address concerns and re-evaluate all areas of education delivery at the school.