Premier Doug Ford has now officially directed school boards to replace the 2015 sex-ed curriculum with one based on a document last updated in 1998. While some socially conservative Ontarians have applauded the move, many families and educators have expressed outrage. (Ontario’s Education Minister Lisa Thompson did not respond to requests for comment.)
Opponents of the decision view it as regressive: the 1998 curriculum does not discuss cyber-bullying or online safety, consent, LGBTQ issues, or gender identity. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has mounted a legal challenge against the government “to keep our classrooms free of censorship, discrimination, stigma and degradation.” On Tuesday, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario filed for an injunction "to stop this unprecedented and unnecessary attack on kids and professional educators," as President Sam Hammond said in a press release.
Public consultations on a new sex-ed curriculum will begin next month. The government has urged parents to report any teachers who continue to use the 2015 material.
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In response to the switch back to a 20-year-old education model, concerned educators have created ways to preserve the more recently developed resources. Here are some online sources of information that deal with subjects not covered in the 1998 curriculum.
Sexual-education expert Carly Basian launched MySexEd.ca after completing her master’s degree at the University of Toronto in 2015. Basian’s research focuses on best practices for teaching sexual education. The site provides teachers of grades 1 through 12 with the tools and materials necessary to cover topics including consent, gender identity, and online safety. It also outlines differences between the 1998 and the 2015 sex-ed curricula.
“Teachers will not have to worry about being incompliant with the 1998 curriculum but can also make sure that they are still covering the subject content that was included in 2015,” said Basian.
The resources section includes links to videos, infographics, and other sites that specialize in subject areas not handled in the 1998 curriculum. It also provides full versions of both the 1998 and 2015 sex-ed curricula and detailed guides, complete with learning outcomes.
Educational expert Nadine Thornhill has also launched a YouTube channel that covers all subjects from the 2015 curriculum. Her website offers workshops, a sex-education master class for teachers in Ontario, and coaching for parents who wish to discuss sex with their kids.
Canada’s Centre for Media and Digital Literacy, or MediaSmarts, conducts research into how youth engage with media and uses the findings to develop workshops, e-tutorials, and guides for parents and teachers who want to help kids engage safely with the online world.
“Part of our mission is advocating for an increased presence in media and digital literacy in the curriculum across the country,” said Mathew Johnson, the organization’s director of education.
Its website features tip sheets for youths on a variety of topics, offering advice, for example, on what they should to do if their photo is shared without their consent or if they become the target of cyberbullying.
Resources are grouped according to such subjects as body image, file sharing, and sexting, and include educational games and blog entries.
Johnson said that the organization invites questions and feedback from parents.
One of the organizations that launched a campaign against the recent sex-education repeal, the 519 is a Toronto-based charity and agency devoted to providing supportive services to the LGBTQ community. It offers onsite workshops and training sessions, and its website provides extensive resources, including educational tools that help foster inclusive environments for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Its #NoBystanders campaign and educational program instructs people in how to counter homophobic, transphobic, and biphobic language and attitudes.
The free and anonymous LGBT Youth Line welcomes webchat, text, or phone inquiries from Ontarians aged 29 or younger and offers referrals to relevant services and resources.
Madalene Arias is a freelance journalist.