Hamilton school board pushing boundaries on teaching sex ed

Published On July 18, 2018 | By HN Staff | News, Politics

Ontario Minister of Education Lisa Thompson, seen here at her swearing in ceremony on July 12, is facing backlash to the PC government’s repeal of the updated sex ed curriculum. (via Twitter @LisaThompsonMPP)

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is pushing back against the Progressive Conservative government’s repeal of the new sex ed curriculum.

Ontario Minister of Education Lisa Thompson announced last Wednesday that schools will revert to teaching the 1998 sex ed curriculum in September.

The sex ed curriculum introduced by the previous Liberal government included topics not covered in the older curriculum, such as same-sex relations and online safety.

A trustee on the Hamilton-Wentworth board tabled a motion to ask staff to continue with the curriculum introduced by the previous government, but Todd White, another trustee on the board, informed them they do not have the authority to supersede the ministry curriculum.

“Just to be clear, we can’t contravene ministry curriculum,” White said.

As a result, he is now working with the board to rework some of the sex ed curriculum and make sure that it aligns with what they are able to change at a local level.

“We do have some local autonomy to encourage those topics, to arrive not as part of the curriculum, but in order to deliver the curriculum,” White said.

The repeal was a part of Premier Doug Ford’s election campaign and has become a controversial topic.

There was a backlash after the 2015 sex ed curriculum was introduced and a number of families took their kids out of school or prevented them from attending classes where the curriculum was taught.

The comparison of the two curricula can be seen here.

“People say it’s teaching people various perverse forms of sex at a very early age,” said Michael Coren, author and former television host of The Michael Coren Show. “It’s protecting children against those who would abuse them. The curriculum doesn’t come out of nowhere, it comes out of the experience of children who have suffered, who have been abused and who have been treated without respect.”

Coren has been on both sides of the argument. He recently publicly accepted the idea of same-sex marriages. He has written 13 books, one of them called Epiphany: A Christian’s Change of Heart & Mind over Same-Sex Marriage, where he details his change of mind of same-sex marriage as a straight man.

“It’s a very sad day for children. This government has caved into religious fundamentalism,” he said. “A curriculum that is going to help children has been scrapped. We are now going to take a sex ed curriculum that was out of date 20 years ago and people will be in danger because of it.”

Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government revealed Monday its plan to re-introduce the old curriculum and said they will be reviewing “the developing sexual relations.” But White suggests the PCs attempt to clarify its position is creating more confusion.

“We don’t have fine details and if you listen to the minister’s statement yesterday, I’m not sure they are particularly clear either, because the minister seemed to contradict the 1998 curriculum and seemed to suggest some of the new topics will continue,” he said.

White also spoke about the difficulty school boards across the province had because the ministry did not give them clear instructions on what would be implemented in September.

“They said in a quick memo that they want to roll back to the 1998 curriculum, and they referenced sex ed in particular, which is off because the curriculum is not called sex ed,” he said. “It’s called sexual health unit of the greater health education curriculum. Healthy and physical education includes everything from gym class to learning about healthy foods, and healthy eating to sex ed.”

White says the districts want to do what is best for kids and that includes keeping them informed of new themes such as homosexuality and same-sex marriages.

“We also know that while the ministry has the final say on the provincial curriculum, boards and individual teachers have professional judgement in the delivery of the curriculum,” he said. “How a teacher teaches the curriculum is up to the teacher.”

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