To his credit Premier Doug Ford is keeping his campaign promise to revisit Ontario’s sex education in the public schools. He stated that during the recent election campaign the most common complaint he heard from parents about this program was that it was not age appropriate, that young children were being exposed to graphic concepts and terms for which they lacked the maturity.
As a result Premier Ford will allow thousands of parents and others to speak before committees about their concerns, with their input being incorporated into a new program. Another concern of parents is the history of the sex education that former Premier Kathleen Wynne brought to Ontario schools.
In 2010 when Wynne was Minister of Education in the Dalton McGuinty government, she attempted to bring this program into the schools back then, but was stopped by Premier McGuinty at the time because he felt it was too controversial to do so. When she became premier, Wynne then placed the new sex ed curriculum into Ontario public schools with the past help of Deputy Minister of Education Benjamin Levin, who went to jail after being convicted on three counts of child pornography.
His involvement in this curriculum does not sit well with parents. The Ontario Human Rights Code protects gender identity and expression from discrimination or coercion in any form, and this protection involves gay, transgender, and heterosexual children and adults. Parents have concerns that legal protections in the schools are only being applied to gay and transgender children but not to heterosexual boys and girls who are not questioning their gender or orientation, but who are being pressured to do so in the public schools, which is against the same law which protects all three groups of children.
Of course we live in an age of cyber bullying, illicit text messages, consent issues, and sexually transmitted diseases. These are safety matters, which are of great importance and will be addressed in the new curriculum after much parental consultation, which is fitting. But age appropriateness and a balance of the entire law against discrimination and coercion in sexual matters are also critical issues in the sex education curriculum. This time the parental consultation will be in person and very thorough given the subject matter. Our children deserve as much.