N.B. sex education curriculum included in review of school gender identity policy

Click to play video: 'Some parents concerned as N.B. government reviews school gender identity policy'
Some parents concerned as N.B. government reviews school gender identity policy
WATCH: The New Brunswick government is reviewing gender identity and trans issues in the provincial sexual education curriculum apart of a look into the Department Of Education's inclusion policy. Silas Brown has more on how some people are concerned about how much control the premier's office will have over what is taught in schools throughout the province – May 10, 2023

New Brunswick education minister Bill Hogan says the province is looking at how it teaches students about gender identity and transgender issues as part of a broader review of the policy intended to protect LGBTQ2 youth.

The province revealed it was reviewing Policy 713, intended to create an inclusive environment for LGBTQ2 youth, earlier this week following “hundreds” of complaints from parents and teachers. Hogan confirmed Wednesday that the review also includes sex education curriculum, particularly when and how students are taught about gender identity.

“I want to ensure that the rights are protected and that when we’re teaching our curricula parents are informed and that we’re not going places that children are not developmentally prepared to be,” he told reporters.

The review of Policy 713 has sparked a backlash from parents and teachers who worry the province will roll back parts of the policy such as gender-neutral bathrooms. Concerns are now being raised over the review of the sex-ed curriculum, with Liberal leader Susan Holt saying the province is creating fear with the uncertainty over what exactly the intent of the review is.

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“There’s not a lot of clarity and there’s a lot of fear that people are feeling about what the real intention is behind … putting Policy 713 under review, talking about changes to middle school sex-ed curriculum,” she said.

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“What’s the goal here? What’s the objective they’re pursuing?”

Former education minister Dominic Cardy, who resigned from cabinet over the handling of reforms to French second language education in the fall, says the confused messaging about what is being reviewed and why is because of Premier Blaine Higgs’ misunderstanding of how the policy works.

Click to play video: 'Dominic Cardy resigns as N.B. education minister after sending scathing letter to premier'
Dominic Cardy resigns as N.B. education minister after sending scathing letter to premier

“The premier has had a long-standing confusion over Policy 713 and sex-ed curriculum I think because it relates to gender identity. I think he thought anything that talked about gender or sex was somehow connected to sex-ed curriculum and he had conflated those regularly over my time in cabinet despite multiple efforts to try and clear that up,” he said.

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“We can hear it now that Minister Hogan is talking about how there had been questions raised between the confusions between Policy 713 and the sex-ed curriculum. There are no confusions, one is a policy that applies to how do we protect the human rights of a certain number of our kids in school, the other is part of the school curriculum.”

Cardy said that he’s heard from at least 17 people in government that the request for the review came from Higgs himself. He said that’s all the more concerning as the province pursues reforms to the governance structure of the education system that would strip anglophone district education councils of their oversight powers, turning them into advisory bodies, with superintendents reporting directly to the Department of Education.

Cardy says that will allow the premier to exert a large degree of influence over the anglophone education system.

“The premier will be able to make unilateral changes to our education system,” he said. “If we thought the fight over French education was a big deal, wait until the premier’s personal perspective and prejudices come to bear to distort our education system.”

Higgs was not at the legislature on Wednesday as he continues a trade mission in Europe. He was not able to be reached for comment on this story.

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