With September not far off, the rollback of Ontario’s new sex education curriculum continues to be a hot-button issue in Queen’s Park.
The new PC government has said it is reverting to the sex-education curriculum in place from 1998 until 2015, before the previous Liberal government under Kathleen Wynne introduced an updated and modified curriculum. That change proved controversial, with some parent groups deeming some content age-inappropriate.
On July 24, NDP leader Andrea Horwath pressed Premier Doug Ford during question period on what kind of sex education would be taught when children across the province return to school in September.
“Will the premier confirm that all information about consent, cyber bullying, and gender identity will be taught in Ontario classrooms this September?” Horwath asked.
“As I’ve said day and day after day, we’re going to consult with the people of Ontario,” Ford replied. “There are 14 million in Ontario, and less than .001 percent of the public school system and separate school system was consulted. That’s not consulting people.”
Ford has long maintained that Wynne didn’t adequately consult parents before she introduced the new curriculum. He said the former premier asked for parents’ thoughts after, rather than before, the curriculum was written.
In March, Wynne told reporters that claims parents weren’t consulted were “just not true.”
“About 4,000 parents, as well as child development professions, were given an opportunity to weigh in on the changes to the curriculum,” she said, according to the National Post.
However, it’s not technically true that the respondents were able to give their opinion on changes to the sex-ed curriculum.
Many questions on the online survey, a reference copy of which was obtained by The Epoch Times, ask parents for their opinion on broad issues, but there are none that ask about specifics of the updated curriculum, which could have been asked since it was already written by then.
A respondent could click on a link from the online survey to get a “fact sheet” about how the curriculum was updated and the FAQ. But the survey questions did not ask respondents directly about any sex-ed changes.
Here’s a typical example, excerpted from the survey.
This next question deals with the role of parents/guardians in learning about sexual health. Please indicate how much you agree with the following statements using a scale of strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree, or don’t know.
- I feel confident in my own knowledge about sexual health topics and concepts.
- I feel confident having discussions with my child(ren) about sexual health topics and concepts.
- My child(ren) face challenges today, such as access to information on the Internet, social media and cyber-bullying that I didn’t, so I am a little unsure how to address these topics.
- I would like to be informed about what my child is learning in school, including when my child is learning about sexual health, so that I can discuss this learning with my child at home.
A link to the survey was provided to principals of the 4,000 elementary schools in Ontario who then each shared it with one parent—one for every elementary school in the province, according to media reports.
The government tallied 1,638 responses from the 4,000 links issued, according to a freedom of information request obtained by Postmedia Network.
The curriculum was written in 2014, parents were surveyed in autumn of that year, and the curriculum was launched in September 2015.
In 2014, Wynne’s Education Minister Liz Sandals said that the then-upcoming results of the survey “are unlikely to lead to any direct changes to the curriculum,” the Toronto Star reported at the time.
Ford said July 24 that his government will conduct a broad consultation with parents, contacting constituents in 124 ridings.
“We’re going to do a thorough end-to-end consultation that’s never taken place ever before when it comes to the sex-ed curriculum,” he said.
“I know the leader of the opposition does not believe in consulting with the parents, but we will consult with the parents. We’ll get their input, and from there we’ll move forward with a more modern sex-ed curriculum.”