Canada More Ontario school boards join sex-ed curriculum protest

17:06  31 july  2018
17:06  31 july  2018 Source:   thestar.com

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Twenty school boards have now spoken out about the province reverting back to a two-decade-old sex-ed curriculum — some raising concerns that by avoiding talk of gender or same-sex families boards could find themselves in violation of human rights legislation.

Boards are now appealing to the education ministry for clarity on what educators are to teach this fall, given the confusing messages from key government ministers.

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The old sex-ed curriculum, which dates back to 1998 and was taught until 2014, does not mention issues of consent, cyberbullying, sexting or same-sex marriage.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson, who has ducked reporters on the issue since mid-July, said Monday that “teachers are going to be going back to what they taught in 2014, and they’re familiar with that curriculum.

“And we’re doing that because we’re respecting parents. Through the campaign we heard loud and clear parents were not happy with the direction the former Liberal government took, so we’re listening to parents.”

“... I have every confidence in our teachers, and in the interim, in tandem, we’ll be consulting with our parents” before making changes, she said.

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario — the country’s largest teachers’ union — said it is looking at all options.

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He also noted that there are social media postings about “a number of ways (teachers) can teach in an expanded way all of the issues (Premier) Doug Ford and his government are removing, and intend to remove.

“Teachers will use their professional judgment to ensure they are responding to the needs of their students on an ongoing basis.”

Hammond called comments by Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott “extremely disturbing and concerning.” Elliott said teachers could have “private” conversations with kids about issues not covered in the old sex-ed curriculum.

“Our members know that’s absolutely not appropriate,” Hammond said.

Others have said it could leave teachers in violation of their profession’s standards and vulnerable to complaints to the Ontario College of Teachers.

The Peel public board did extensive outreach before the new curriculum was introduced. It produced its own guide which was endorsed by local leaders from all religions.

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“The process was going very well,” said Chair Janet McDougald.

The few lessons pertaining to actual sexual health education aren’t usually taught until later in the school year, “so there is some time,” McDougald said. She hopes boards can continue to teach social media awareness and consent.

McDougald also said talking about same-sex families “is a part of human rights, and you can’t opt out of human rights,” she added. “You can’t say ‘no, we’re not going to talk about different kinds of families.’ I don’t know if the Conservative government understands that either. They don’t seem to be consulting with any boards that are concerned.”

“Every day it changes,” she added. “So we’re going to wait, going to wait until we have to make a board decision without direction.”

Other boards issuing statements include the Toronto District School Board, Durham District School Board, as well as Kawartha Pine Ridge, Thames Valley, Ottawa Carleton, Simcoe County and Lambton Kent.

“Students need our support in managing the modern risks and challenges of cyberbullying, sexting, the prevalence of online pornography and other similar issues,” said Chair Diane Lloyd of the Kawartha Pine Ridge board in the eastern 905 and Peterborough area.

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“All of these significant areas, as well as critical knowledge regarding the concept of consent and awareness of the names of body parts that safeguard children against sexual abuse by helping them to speak clearly to police, are not contemplated within the 1998 curriculum.

“We do not believe that reverting back to that curriculum, for any period of time, is in the best interests of our students.”

Cathy Abraham, head of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, said it has sent a letter to the ministry and has heard concerns from the teacher federations.

“Legally, we can’t go against human rights legislation” she said. “Again, this is a situation that puts our teachers in a precarious position.”

Ontario has more than 70 publicly funded school boards.

The chair of the Toronto public board, Robin Pilkey said “we have to assume the government is going to provide some information … they have to give something to the school boards with specific instructions. I’m not sure why they are not.”

“This half-baked plan has done them no favours,” she said.

Meanwhile, a petition from 17 health-care organizations and medical professionals, including nurses, midwives and Planned Parenthood Ottawa — and also signed by almost 1,800 health-care workers — has been delivered to the education minister. It says they “strongly endorse preservation of the 2015 evidence-based Ontario Human Development and Sexual Health curriculum in its entirety,” noting it is the “product of years of extensive expert consultations.”

Some boards have asked that the 2015 curriculum remain in place until consultations are complete and any changes made. Another is seeking a legal opinion.

One director, of the Bluewater District School Board — part of which encompasses Thompson’s riding — noted that elementary students will be learning from lessons that “pre-dates their existence. I expect common sense will prevail in Ontario.”

The government has promised consultations in all 124 provincial ridings starting this fall, but no details have been released.

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

Families to launch human rights case over outdated sex-ed curriculum .
At least six Ontario families are launching a human rights case over the province’s plan to use an outdated sex-ed curriculum, saying it will harm their children — the first legal challenge amid a growing backlash over reviving the two-decade-old lessons and the impact on LGBTQ youth. While the main applicant is an 11-year-old trans youth from rural Ontario, a number of families from Guelph, Toronto, Sudbury and other cities will support the case with evidence of how the new curriculum — which the Ford government said it will suspend this fall — helped support their elementary school children.All of the kids involved in the case are younger than 13.

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