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Durham school board raises “collective concerns” on state of sex ed curriculum

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The education leaders of the Durham District School Board have come out against the provincial government’s decision to scrap the modern sex ed curriculum developed in 2015 and revert back to lessons developed in 1998.

In a statement released on July 25, Michael Barrett, the chair of the DDSB Board of Trustees, and Lisa Millar, the director of education, voiced what they labelled as “collective concerns” relating to the outdated nature of the previous curriculum and the potential impacts on students who will miss out on valuable lessons necessary in today’s world.

“There are many challenges in today’s world that simply did not exist in earlier times. Today’s youth need specific knowledge and skills to respond to these realities, benefits and pressures that stem from our rapidly changing, technology-driven world. Extensive support is required to manage many modern risks and issues such as cyber bullying, sexting, and the proliferation of online pornography,” the joint statement reads.

Additionally, the statement points to the fact that under the previous curriculum, taught up until 2014, there are a number of critical pieces missing.

“Our children’s safety in understanding consent, as well as signs of sexual abuse and processes to follow to support reporting to police, are key omissions in the previous curriculum. The safety of our students is a critical priority.”

For those reasons, the statement slams the previous curriculum, stating it “falls short” of today’s standards, and requests that while the Progressive Conservative government works on consultations for a new curriculum, that schools be allowed to continue to teach the 2015 version.

“We respectfully request that the government complete their announced consultations in the area as soon as possible, and in the interim, allow the current curriculum to remain in place pending the outcome of these consultations. In addition, we would also ask that the Minister of Education clarify curriculum expectations for September 2018, in the hopes that appropriate and responsive learning materials supporting students’ health and wellness will be available,” the statement reads. “We want our communities to know that our sincere commitment to create inclusive and responsive school environments has not wavered,” the DDSB statement continues. ‘This includes all LGBTQ+ students, staff, parents and families that compose our wonderfully diverse region.”

To date, there has been much confusion swirling around Queen’s Park regarding the Conservatives decision to quash the Liberal sex ed curriculum, with statements from education minister Lisa Thompson stoking confusion around whether particular elements around consent, cyber bullying and gender identity will be included in lessons taught this fall.

During Question Period in the Legislature on July 24, under questioning from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, Premier Doug Ford noted that his government will be holding consultations, “the largest in the history of Ontario” to inform the new curriculum, while also criticizing the Liberal government’s previous consultation for being too minimal. However, he would not say whether those particular issues would be included in September lessons.

“It’s up to the people of this great province to give us the direction to make that decision,” Ford said.