(Screenshot: Ontario Ministry of Education)
BY KELLY ROCHE
Peel’s public elementary students won’t be taught the new – and controversial – sex education curriculum anytime soon.
“To respond to concerns, we are delaying the Healthy Sexuality component of the curriculum until after March Break at the elementary level and requiring a minimum of two weeks’ written notice to parents before components are taught,” Peel District School Board spokesman Brian Woodland said.
A province-wide protest was supposed to take place Oct. 1, with parents who oppose the revised curriculum threatening to keep their kids home for the day.
Last Thursday’s widespread action didn’t quite take flight, though.
Parents from Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park Public School – with a large Muslim community – have been the most vocal, however, educators there tell media they’re spreading homophobic sentiments.
Christina Liu from the Parents Alliance of Ontario said their stance isn’t anti-gay.
“This curriculum is promoting sexual freedom” over sexual health, said Liu, adding, “anal sex is very, very dangerous.”
She called the move by the Peel board “neither a good nor a bad thing.”
Liu said she believes kids weren’t scheduled to learn those topics until March, “so I don’t think it makes any difference.”
Sarfraz Hussain belongs to the Rahmat Masjid mosque in Mississauga and said many members reject the material for religious reasons.
“They’re giving too much exposure for such young kids,” said Hussain.
The Health & Physical Education curriculum has been updated by the province for the first time since 1998, “before the existence of Facebook or Snapchat became part of everyday life,” Education Minister Liz Sandals said in an e-mailed statement Monday.
More than 70 health-related organizations submitted reports for consideration, Sandals continued.
“We also consulted with the police and Children’s Aid Societies, and we heard that a comprehensive sexual education better protects our students from harm.”
Students in Grades 1, 2 and 3 will learn the names of body parts, understanding of how bodies work, homosexuality, awareness of their feelings, and sex organs.
Grade 7 to 12 students will focus on family and romantic relationships, personal safety and decision-making, delaying sexual activity, oral and anal sex, preventing sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, as well as where to find support and information pertaining to sexual health.
Topics such as sexting, mental health, consent, and cyber safety will also be tackled.
Liu said all reminders are a “great temptation to the children.”
Peel’s director of education Tony Pontes has stated his support for the material and addressed concerns in a letter to parents last June.
“Students will be encouraged to delay sexual activity and taught that the only way to stay completely safe is to not engage in any sexual activity,” Pontes wrote.
Lessons were scheduled to begin last month, however, new information will soon be released by the board.
“We really believe parents should wait to read our comprehensive parent guide in mid-October before making decisions,” Woodland said.
THE MINISTRY AND THE BOARDS
The Ministry of Education is responsible for developing curriculum, and school boards are responsible for its implementation and determining when different parts of the curriculum will be taught over the course of the school year.
“Teachers plan units of study, develop a variety of teaching approaches, and select appropriate resources to address curriculum expectations, taking into account the needs and abilities of their students,” Education Minister Liz Sandals said in an e-mailed statement Monday.