One year ago, the then-newly elected Ontario Progressive Conservative government scrapped the updated sex-ed curriculum the Liberals had brought in.
Now the provincial Conservatives have introduced their own new curriculum that changes when students will learn about certain topics and will make it easier for parents to pull their children from class.
Although the PCs’ curriculum is very, very similar to the Liberals’, including topics like sexual health, sexuality, consent, and cyber safety, they say schools across the province will now need to develop a plan to allow children to be exempt.
"Currently, not all school boards across Ontario have policies in place to address the exemption of children from sexual health education,” the government said in documents posted online. New procedures must be in place by November 30.
Those who rejected teachings about safety and health due to religious or conscientious objections were previously able to opt out, but those were addressed on a case-by-case basis. There was no specific policy for opting out procedures.
Along with a focus on allowing exemptions, the new curriculum also changes the age at which students will learn certain concepts.
Students will learn about gender identity in Grade 8, when under the 2015 update, they would have learned about that in Grade 6.
Sexual orientation will now be taught in Grade 5, when the Liberals previously had it introduced in Grade 6.
Lessons on issues surrounding cannabis use will also be introduced for students through Grades 5 to 8.
Here’s an overview of the curriculum:
Conservatives 2019 update for Grades 1-8:
New focus on mental health.
Expanded framework to allow opt-outs.
Gender identity moved to Grade 8 (previous was Grade 6).
Sexuality orientation moved to Grade 5 (previous was Grade 6).
Mental Health, including social-emotional learning skills.
The effects and risks of vaping, and cannabis.
Expanded cyber safety lessons, including bullying prevention and digital privacy.
Healthy body image.
Healthy relationships, including consent.
That Liberal re-vamp of the curriculum in 2015 was the first time the program had been revised since 1998. When the Ford government removed it, teachers had to go back to teaching curriculum that hadn’t been reviewed since before the millennium.
Ford’s repeal of the 2015 update led to a charter challenge from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, arguing that axing the lessons put students at risk.
That charter challenge was ultimately rejected because a court ruled that teachers could go beyond the curriculum if they wanted to. Doug Ford’s statements that teachers could be punished for doing so didn’t amount to infringing on charter rights, and those statements weren’t official policy, the court argued.
Do you agree with these changes to the Ontario sex-ed curriculum? Let us know in the comments.