Questions & Answers
Q: What has the Ford Government instructed school boards and teachers to teach with respect to Human Development and Sexual Health components of the Elementary Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum?
- A: In August of 2018, the Ford Government withdrew the 2015 Health and Physical Education curriculum and replaced it with The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education, Interim Edition (re-issued 2018). The Government has directed that 2015 content redacted from this edition not be taught to students. The Government has also advised parents and guardians to contact The Ontario College of Teachers if they feel their child’s teacher has not complied.
Q: What is the difference between the 1998 health curriculum, the 2010 curriculum, and the 2015 curriculum?
- A: The 1998 curriculum made no reference to LGBTQ identities, sexting, or cyberbullying. It predates social media and smartphone technology. The 2010 document addressed these topics but was withdrawn following protests of its content -- an “interim” 2010 document replaced it, which rolled content on Human Development and Sexual Health back to 1998 standards. The 2015 Curriculum restored the 2010 document, with added material on the topic of consent.
Q: What’s the difference between a curriculum and a lesson plan?
- A: Curricula are written for teachers and administrators. Producing curriculum in Ontario is the role of the Ontario Ministry of Education. The 2015 HPE Curriculum, is divided into three sections: ACTIVE LIVING; MOVEMENT COMPETENCE: SKILLS, CONCEPTS, AND STRATEGIES; and HEALTHY LIVING
- Each of these is comprised of general and specific learning expectations, which come with optional teacher prompts (to begin discussion). “Sexual Health and Human Development,” which is popularly referred to as “sex ed,” is a very small portion of the curriculum. For instance, in the third grade, there are only three specific learning expectations related to Sexual Health and Human Development.
- Lesson plans are written by teachers. They tend to detail which learning expectation is being taught from the curriculum, time spent, resources used, accommodations for learners. Teachers write lesson plans for themselves and may share them with peers or administrators.
- One thing that lesson plans and curricula have in common is they are not scripts to be read to students. They are very much for teachers. Teachers will search for materials that are appropriate for the age and grade of their students to support lessons -- these might include websites, texts, library books, and videos.
Q: Doesn’t the 2015 curriculum introduce sensitive topics too soon, before students are ready?
- A: The 2015 Health Curriculum is consistent with other curricula across the country and in many other parts of the world. Currently, Ontario’s 2018 interim curriculum is the only one in Canada that does not teach about consent.
Q: What about religious freedom for people who object to the curriculum?
- A: There are options available to parents who object to portions of the curriculum. They may speak with the administrator and teacher about removing their children from certain activities; however, discussions of gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation are protected under human rights. These human rights statements are embedded in both the Ontario Human Rights Code and The Education Act.
Q: Don’t we just encourage kids to turn gay and trans when we introduce topics like gender identity and sexual orientation too early? Wouldn’t it be better to wait?
- A: ‘Turning people gay or trans’ implies that we are naturally straight and cisgender. Experience and research show that children begin to form a sense of sexuality and gender identity in the early years. Gender identity and sexual orientation cannot be forced on people in the same way that conversion therapies have proven ineffective. Before entering school children begin to see that there are varieties of families. Schools welcome children from all kinds of families.
Q: Don’t we just encourage students to have sex too young by introducing topics about sex too soon?
- A: All evidence says otherwise. Students who are informed about sexuality tend to delay sexual activity and are less likely to experience unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Learning in the elementary grades provides a platform for more learning in the secondary grades. On a related note, HPE is not required past the ninth grade in Ontario. The more we defer these conversations, the less likely they are to occur.
Q: Why don’t we just encourage abstinence? – “Just say no!”
- A: Abstinence is a legitimate choice, and it can be taught within the context of comprehensive sexual health education. “Abstinence only” education leaves gaps in students’ understanding of what constitutes safer or less safe choices. A comprehensive program teaches all students to respect the choice to be abstinent. This falls squarely under discussions of consent.
Q: Why should students learn about relationships, consent, cyberbullying, sexting, online safety?
- A: With access to the Internet and devices, young people have never been more vulnerable to faulty information and to threats to their safety. Choices made online can impact young people’s lives in real time.
Q: Shouldn’t parents decide when and how to teach their children about these things?
- A: As parents, we’ll never agree universally on the perfect age to learn this component of sexual health or that one. Our children exist within a community of peers in an era where sexually explicit material is literally at their fingertips. As young people attend school together, grow up together, and form close relationships, they need to have a baseline understanding of topics ranging from sexuality to consent.
Q: What is the “snitch line” and why is it a problem?
- A: The Province as launched a website ForTheParents.ca which invites parents to register concerns or complaints about teachers exceeding the assigned curriculum. It includes a phone number to the Ontario College of Teachers and an online form. The OCT website makes clear that the College does not respond to anonymous complaints. The form itself does not go directly to the College; rather, Provincial staff will compile the comments and forward them to the College each month.
- We have two concerns about the “snitch line”:
- It circumvents complaint protocols provided by every publicly funded school board in the Province. These typically include speaking to the teacher, principal, superintendent and trustee. Potentially serious concerns raised by parents on any matter might be left unaddressed for a period of time -- we find this unacceptable and believe that it’s important for parents to know they can engage with their school.
- Additionally, the College addresses extremely serious alleged breaches of professional conduct that have not been resolved through the normal process. In these instances, the College may have to make a determination of whether it is appropriate for member teacher to possess a teaching license. These are very serious and time-consuming cases.
Q: How can I learn more? What can I do?
- A: Please visit the resources section of this website to find out more and get involved.