By Ian Burns
Ontario has an updated sexual education curriculum for the first time since 1998.
Education Minister Liz Sandals released the updated curriculum at a press conference at Queen’s Park on Monday.
— Mike Crawley (@CBCQueensPark) February 23, 2015
Sandals said the updates will reflect realities faced by students today, including cyberbullying and “sexting”.
“Starting this fall, students will have the best information possible to help them make informed decisions about their health and well-being,” said Sandals.
According to documentation released by the Ministry of Education, in the primary grades (Grades 1, 2 and 3) students will learn about names of body parts and how their bodies work.
They will also receive instruction about safe Internet use.
By the end of Grade 3, students will have learned about understanding gender identity and same-sex relationships.
Sandals said the government is moving learning about puberty to Grade 4 from Grade 5.
“We need to deal with the fact that our kids are starting to go through puberty much younger than they used to,” she said.
By the end of Grade 7, students will have learned about bullying and cyberbullying issues, including sexting.
Grade 8 students will learn about consent issues and contraception.
Sandals noted that the government tried to implement a change in the sexual education curriculum in 2010, but backed down in face of opposition from religious groups.
This will be the curriculum, vows #ontedu minister Liz Sandals. No backing down even if vocal grps try again to block sex-ed changes.
— Martin Regg Cohn (@reggcohn) February 23, 2015
“As someone who was involved [in the development of the 2010 curriculum], I was disappointed it didn’t happen then,” Sandals said. “But you can rest assured I will make sure it happens now.”
PC education critic Garfield Dunlop told Humber News he is “fully supportive” of the changes the government has introduced.
“Things have changed [since 1998],” he said. “How can you not support something that will help children?”
But MPP Monte McNaughton, who is currently seeking the leadership of the Ontario PC Party, told a scrum after Sandals’ announcement there was not enough consultation with parents on the curriculum changes.
“Parents are looking for a voice,” he said. “I’m going to be their voice in this debate.”
The province hopes everything will be in place by September 2015.