As the Ontario government prepares to carry out consultations on a new sex-ed curriculum, a new poll conducted exclusively for Global News finds that even though parents are divided on the most recent version being repealed, a strong majority of those surveyed endorse the content being taught.
The poll, which surveyed 500 parents across Ontario, found 50 per cent of them said they were OK with the 1998 curriculum being taught with 48 per cent believing it does “a good job” of addressing current issues.
“Parents are clearly divided on the issue of repeal of the 2015 sex-ed curriculum. You’ve got half (51 per cent) who support the premier’s decision to repeal it and you’ve got half who are opposed,” Sean Simpson, vice president of Ipsos Public Affairs, told Global News.
“Despite the fact that half that agree with the repeal presumably believing that the new curriculum is inappropriate, when we tested various components of that 2015 curriculum, a majority of parents support every provision that we tested.”
The government replaced the curriculum with a version developed in 1998 while the consultations occur. The move, announced soon after Premier Doug Ford took power in June, fulfilled a promise made during the spring election campaign.
During the campaign, Ford accused the Liberals of introducing a sex-ed curriculum based on ideology, saying they had turned schools into social laboratories and kids into test subjects. He promised a Tory government would replace the curriculum with a teaching plan that was “age appropriate.” The 2015 version of the sex-ed curriculum included warnings about online bullying and sexting, but opponents objected to the parts of the plan addressing same-sex marriage, gender identity and masturbation.
Thousands have signed petitions calling on the Ontario government to reconsider its repeal of the more recent edition of the curriculum. Six families announced a plan in August to file a case with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, noting that the old version of the curriculum makes no mention of issues such as gender diversity or the rights of LGBTQ students.
When Ipsos asked the parents about provisions in the 2015 curriculum, support for different concepts being taught between Grades 1 and 8 was strong. For example, the highest level of support — 84 per cent — from parents surveyed dealt with the question of teaching Grade 7 students about sexually-transmitted diseases, oral and anal sex, and the risks of ‘sexting.’ The question which received the lowest level of support — 68 per cent — involved Grade 6 students being taught about masturbation, gender expression, and consent.
Simpson said the issue boils down to be more of a political one versus education and awareness of the most recent curriculum.
“There’s obviously a disconnect here, and I think a lot of it likely has to do with a lack of knowledge as to what’s actually in that 2015 curriculum,” he said.
The poll found the strongest amount of support for repealing the 2015 curriculum is in the city of Toronto and central Ontario. However, that support dropped off in southwestern Ontario and the 905 region with 43 and 45 per cent, respectively, of parents polled agreeing with the decision.
“The city of Toronto is ethnically-diverse and it might be that people of certain ethnicities or religions who are in Toronto are more supportive of repealing this curriculum from 2015 as a result,” Simpson said when asked about the support in Toronto.
“If you look at the question of whether the issue is important to parents, 87 per cent of those in the 416 say it’s important but only 69 per cent of those in the 905.”
Parents surveyed were asked about the topic of sexual education being taught in schools and a large majority of those polled — 89 per cent — support sex-ed being taught in schools. Seventy-six per cent of the parents said the issue is important to them personally.
Despite the split in support for the Doug Ford government’s decision to repeal the curriculum, 83 per cent of parents surveyed backed the government’s move to conduct public consultation.
Meanwhile, Simpson said for those who back the government’s decision, it appears they are more engaged in the issue.
“It looks like those who believe the issue is important to them is more likely to support the repeal,” he said.
“It’s mobilizing, but it looks a little bit more on the side of those who support the repeal.”
— With files from The Canadian Press
This Ipsos poll on behalf of Global News was an online survey with Ipsos’ online panel and non-panel sources of 500 Ontario parents and conducted between August 27 and 30, 2018. Quota sampling and weighting were used to balance demographics and to ensure the sample composition reflects population by region and gender, according to Census data. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is considered accurate to within plus or minus five percentage points, 19 times out of 20.