Parents across Ontario are still outraged at the changes proposed to the provincial sexual education curriculum. Last October, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a number of updates, including discussions of gender fluidity in Grade 3 (aimed at 7 and 8-year-old students), masturbation in Grade 6 (for 12 and 13-year-old students), and anal intercourse in Grade 7 (aimed at 13 and 14-year-old students). These topics, the Ontario government insists, will be introduced in September 2015.
In the meantime, parents are demanding the curriculum be delayed and parents consulted. Some have kept their children home as a form of protest. Thorncliffe Park Elementary School reported that just 130 out of 1350 children – nine percent of those enrolled – attended class on May 4. Almost 35,000 students across the city were absent that day, many in protest. The Toronto District School Board hosts over 171,000 students, which translates to a reduction of approximately 20 per cent. Board spokesperson Shari Schwartz-Maltz told the Globe and Mail that exceptions would not be made for protest-related student absences. “Just like if you were sick on a certain day, parents…and children are responsible for the work that they missed.”
Thorncliffe Park parent Lubna Awah, who has a son in kindergarten, told the Toronto Star that her child’s peers “should be learning about the ABCs, not sex.” She also expressed concerns about the introduction of gender identity at such a young age. Claudia Rulli of York Region planned to keep her five-year-old daughter home from school. (Wynne) has no idea how infuriated and hurt the parents are.” Yet she remains determined. “We’re not going to stop. This is our message and it will continue.”
Jack Fonseca, spokesperson for Campaign Life Coalition, called the boycott “wonderful. I’m pleased at the enormity of a response by parents across Ontario. 30,000 parents pulled their children in Toronto alone, and (families from) a total of 36 boards across Ontario participated in the strike.”
Fonseca says that protests will continue in the coming weeks. Small demonstrations are planned “at school board offices, on public street corners and at MPP offices” throughout Ontario. A larger event will be held at Queen’s Park in Toronto on June 5, coinciding with one on Parliament Hill in Ottawa the same day. In the future, Campaign Life Coalition “is planning province-wide mini-protests at constituency offices of all 107 MPPs.” he told The Interim. These will be co-sponsored by the many parents’ groups who have challenged the curriculum content. Although dates have not been finalized, he hopes they will be held near the beginning of the new school year.
Fonseca stresses the importance of the issue for family advocates. Since many people voted for Ontario Progressive Conservative party leader Patrick Brown, “based on his pledge to repeal the curriculum, we must hold him to his word even beyond September…all the way to the 2018 election if necessary.” Fonseca said “parents need to ensure that the main ballot question in 2018 will be the sex-ed curriculum, and that Brown remains committed to keeping it a ballot issue.”