Director Tony Pontes says the board is willing to lose students over its stance on inclusion issues in the curriculum.
Parents can remove their kids from sex-ed classes for religious reasons, but any requests for students to opt-out of learning about gay families or diverse gender identities won’t be tolerated, says the director of Ontario’s second largest school board — one that expects to be hard hit by protests over the new health curriculum.
The same day as anti-sex-ed rallies were planned outside Liberal MPP offices across the province, Tony Pontes was to tell teachers and superintendents about the Peel board’s tough stand, saying if parents have a problem with such strong support for equity and inclusion, the public system may not be right for them.
“Let’s be clear: Some in our community may not like this,” he says in a speech to be given Wednesday morning, a copy of which was provided to the Star.
After noting the 905-area board is opening its first gender-neutral washroom at a high school as well as introducing a new gender identity guideline for educators, some parents “may choose to switch school systems … if so, that is a price we must be willing to pay.
“We cannot — we will not — by action or inaction endorse discrimination,” said Pontes, who cited Ontario’s Human Rights Code as applying to people of all sexual orientation and gender identity. “Supported by legal opinion, bolstered by our core values, I would no more say yes to someone wanting a child excluded because of a discussion about LGBTQ than I would a discussion about race or gender.”
He said that while some parents do have “genuine concerns” that the board will work to address, critics of the updated sex-ed curriculum have used it to “raise fear, generate untruths and build constituencies of protest based on false information. I find that unconscionable.”
Since the new curriculum was announced, opponents, made up mainly of different faith groups, have tried to derail it, labelling it age-inappropriate, radical and even immoral — arguing parents should be the ones providing such information, and at a time when they feel their children are ready.
Thousands have taken part in several protests, and kept their children home from school for a week last May. Some even refused to allow their kids to participate in the anti-bullying “Day of Pink,” believing it promoted homosexuality.
On Wednesday, protesters were to target MPP offices around the province demanding that the curriculum be dropped. As well, a Sept. 2 letter sent by the Canadian Families Alliance to the Ministry of Education outlines several concerns and asks for a public debate on the issue, saying now is the time to “amend and enhance the curriculum before it is fully implemented across the province.”
The government, meanwhile, has stepped up its promotion of the new curriculum, with YouTube videos airing on television over the next month, as the school year starts up.
Some anonymous materials, distributed to families by groups unknown, have incorrectly said sex education offers how-to classes on masturbation and homosexuality; parents have also objected to teaching masturbation as “healthy,” or their children learning about oral or anal sex — none of which is actually a mandatory part of the curriculum, though it could be discussed.
The health curriculum had last been updated in 1998. Until now, Ontario has been teaching students with the most outdated information of any province in the country. The updated version was first introduced in 2010, but then abandoned by former premier Dalton McGuinty because of the outcry from a vocal minority.
Parents are free to keep their children home from school at any time, but because equity is woven into all subject areas and may also spontaneously arise during classroom discussion, it is near-impossible for kids to avoid it.
“So, some parents may ask, ‘Don’t you respect my values?’” Pontes also said. “Yes — but that does not mean we will de facto endorse those values by providing an in-school accommodation.”
Let’s talk about sex:
Details of Ontario’s new health curriculum
- Grade 1: Students learn about body parts and genitalia, with possible examples: penis, testicles, vagina, vulva. Could be as simple as “boys have penises and girls have vaginas,” or more detailed, depending on the resources teachers use.
- Grade 2: Students will learn the basic states of human development including how their bodies change as they grow.
- Grade 3: First mention of homosexuality, within the context of being respectful of differences. Teachers may talk about families that have two moms or two dads.
- Grade 4: Kids learn about puberty and the body and emotional changes it brings, also personal hygiene. Topics also include online safety (including text messaging as well as warnings about sending sexy pictures).
- Grade 5: Students learn about reproductive systems, menstruation and sperm production, as well as emotions and stress during puberty.
- Grade 6: Healthy relationships and sexual consent are major issues covered. If a student asks about masturbation, a teacher could respond by saying: “Things like wet dreams or vaginal lubrication are normal and happen as a result of physical changes with puberty. Exploring one’s body by touching or masturbating is something that many people do and find pleasurable. It is common and is not harmful and is one way of learning about your body.”
- Grade 7: Students are warned about sexting, and learn about sexually transmitted diseases and discuss delaying sexual activity “until they are older (e.g., choosing to abstain from any genital contact; choosing to abstain from having vaginal or anal intercourse; choosing to abstain from having oral-genital contact); the reasons for not engaging in sexual activity; the concept of consent and how consent is communicated; and, in general, the need to communicate clearly with each other when making decisions about sexual activity in the relationship.” Birth control is also covered. Anal intercourse and oral sex may be discussed, but are not mandatory parts of the curriculum.
What happened when in the sex-ed controversy continue reading »»»»»»
Article By: Kristin Rushowy Education Reporter, Source: Toronto Star files, Ministry of Education ~ Published on Wed Sep 02 2015