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Simcoe County school board gives teachers discretion when it comes to teaching sex ed

Board issues statement about controversial decision over health and physical education curriculum; 'I personally believe it's a step back,' local trustee says
2018-07-10 SCDSB office RB
The Simcoe County District School Board offices in Midhurst. Raymond Bowe/BarrieToday

The Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) will allow its teachers “to exercise their professional judgment … as to what, when and how information” about consent, gender and online safety is taught in its classrooms.

Late Friday, the regional school board released its “official position” regarding the sweeping changes to the health and physical education curriculum decreed by Premier Doug Ford in the weeks following his June 7 election.

Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has repealed the current curriculum and will force teachers to revert back to the curriculum that was developed in 1998 and taught until the new program was implemented in 2015.

“I personally believe it’s a step back to go where we are going, back to a curriculum developed in 1998,” said Orillia and Ramara Township area trustee Jodi Lloyd. “The world has changed dramatically since then.”

She said: “We need to understand the world we’re in (and) give students the tools they need to function in that world to understand it.”

The long-time local trustee said she worked with board chair Peter Beacock and Steve Blake, the director of education, to help craft the statement that was released late Friday.

“Trustees were getting lots of inquiries and we felt it was really important to put out a clear and concise position as to where the board stood and obviously, our statement is pretty clear.” (The full statement can be found below).

Lloyd said she had not received any feedback that supports the government’s decision but has heard from many people opposed to the changes.

She also stressed it’s a misnomer to label this issue as “sex education.” Using that term is “inflammatory and sensational,” she said.

“This is health and physical education curriculum of which a small portion is on that topic,” she said.

She also noted that since the curriculum was introduced in 2015, parents could choose to opt their children out of that part of the classroom teaching.

“If they objected based upon faith or personal views, they had the option to withdraw their child,” said Lloyd, noting “no one was forced to take” the curriculum related to sex education.

Lloyd said even though the curriculum introduced in 2015 followed “extensive consultation”, she would have understood a review of what is being taught. However, she said it “makes no sense” to repeal the curriculum while that review occurs.

In addition, school boards across the province are “operating right now in an information void,” she said.

“We have received absolutely no information,” said Lloyd. “We’re learning this information through the media.”

Earlier this month, Fierté Simcoe Pride president Brandon Rhéal Amyot, who is from Orillia, organized a protest in Barrie, dubbed Rally for Sex Ed.

That event attracted more than 100 people including Barrie resident Erica Smith.

“Our kids deserve better,” said Smith, a mother of two young girls, adding the old curriculum should never be reinstated. “It didn’t work for me when I was in school as an eight-year-old and it’s not going to work for my eight-year-old.”

Smith, who is bisexual, said topics such as gender identity, same-sex marriage and consent are crucial lessons for kids to learn about.

“We weren’t taught these things and we were left to flounder,” said Smith, fighting back tears as she recalled her days in school and what she had to endure. “There’s so much misinformation out there and it’s a huge disservice to a large amount of our population.”

The SCDSB expects an 2018-19 enrolment of 36,746 elementary school students and 15,231 secondary school students. The board employs 2,475 elementary-school teachers/staff and 1,061 secondary school teachers/staff.

  • With files from Raymond Bowe

 

The Simcoe County District School Board (SDCSB) released their official position regarding the status of health and physical education curriculum on Friday.

This is what it says:

The Ontario government recently announced its intention to begin public consultation on the current Health and Physical Education Curriculum. The government indicated that the most recent curriculum, released in 2015, will not be in place at the start of the school year. School boards have not yet received direction from the Ministry of Education as to next steps.

As information becomes available, including opportunities for public consultation, the SCDSB will share that information with families, to ensure that members of our entire community have the opportunity to provide input regarding the new curriculum.

The SCDSB has received questions and concerns from students, families, staff and the community, specifically with respect to ensuring that topics such as consent, gender and online safety will continue to be taught to students.

The SCDSB expects our educators to follow the approved Ontario Curriculum. At the same time, we respect our educators’ discretion to exercise their professional judgment to make day-to-day decisions as to what, when and how information is taught. This will include providing our educators with the flexibility to adjust content and context to ensure students are prepared for present day realities. The SCDSB’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion is foundational to the board’s Strategic Priorities (2017-2022). This includes respecting all voices, perspectives and lived-experiences within schools and classrooms. We strive to ensure that all students can see themselves clearly embedded in the curriculum. We want them to be safe, welcomed, and feel that they are valued members of the community.

The SCDSB is an inclusive organization. Through this statement, we want to be clear to students, families, staff and community members that, regardless of the Health and Physical Education Curriculum, the SCDSB will uphold its responsibilities and obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Education Act and board policies. As a school board, we are committed to the well-being, safety and success of all students and will continue to be guided by our unwavering commitment to equity and inclusion in everything we do.

We want to assure our community that the SCDSB is fully committed to the well-being and achievement of all students by providing sound instruction within learning environments that align with the realities of the world in which we live. When we know who our students are, we can make informed decisions about how to best teach them in ways that are relevant and engaging. This means that topics pertinent to today’s students will continue to be taught in classrooms, and teachers will be supported in doing so. This remains a priority in the SCDSB. We are confident that SCDSB staff will continue to create safe and accepting environments for all students.

Further questions or concerns about the Health and Physical Education Curriculum should be directed to your local Member of Provincial Parliament and/or the Minister of Education in order to offer feedback or inquire about how you can offer input into upcoming consultations on this matter.

 


Dave Dawson

About the Author: Dave Dawson

Dave Dawson is community editor of OrilliaMatters.com
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