People gathered at city hall on Monday evening to discuss changes in the Ontario sex-ed curriculum.
The forum was hosted by the Limestone secondary and elementary school teachers’ unions and featured a board made up of politicians, educators and parents.
Many at the event expressed concerns about the PC government’s decision to revert to a 20-year-old sex-ed curriculum for 2018.
“This new curriculum I fully credit with my children being happy and healthy and able to come out and transition because of the support they received from their principals,” said a woman in the crowd.
The 2015 curriculum updated by the previous Liberal government, was scrapped by Doug Ford’s new PC government for this year, and will be replaced by the curriculum first instated in Ontario in 1998.
Reverting back to the 1998 guidelines for this year was meant to give the PC government time for consultations, which are meant to be the basis for new curriculum coming in 2019.
Government House Leader and MPP for Bay of Quinte Todd Smith responded to those worried about the changes.
“All we’re asking for is a one-year pause to go back to the 2014 curriculum to make sure that thousands and thousands of parents right across the province have an opportunity to participate in the consultation.”
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For one of the panel members, Andrea Loken, president of the area’s secondary school teacher’s union, using the 1998 curriculum could be problematic for educators.
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“We don’t have the documents anymore and yes, it’s available online but it actually isn’t easy to find online. It does require training — our newer teachers are not trained.”
Jane Roberts, president of the local elementary teachers’ union, said on Monday her union will stand by teachers that continue to teach the 2015 sex-ed curriculum.
“ETFO is going to support and vigorously defend teachers that want to go ahead and teach the 2015 curriculum,” said Roberts.
Ian Arthur, MPP for Kingston and the Islands, worried that having a curriculum that doesn’t address issues like cyberbullying, same-sex marriage, sexting and gender identity could be dangerous for students.
“That lost year, what is going to happen to those kids who are not given the tools to handle growing up in today’s world with the access to information that we have?” Arthur said.
Smith, in a separate interview with CKWS on Monday, said the 2015 curriculum was controversial itself because it was created without proper consultation.
“You’ll recall … when the new curriculum was introduced by premier Wynne, there were massive, massive protests on the front lawn at Queen’s Park because parents weren’t consulted,” Smith said.
Jennifer Kehoe was the lone parent on Monday evening’s panel. She agreed that parental input for curriculum like sexual education is important, but experts like teachers and health-care professionals shouldn’t be discounted.
Kehoe added that it may be helpful to educate parents about what the 2015 curriculum includes in its teachings.
“To ensure that the curriculum is understood by parents, so there is no fear of what the curriculum actually states inside of it.”