Elementary school teachers take stand against sex-ed repeal at Toronto protest
CTV News Toronto
Published Tuesday, August 14, 2018 3:08PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 14, 2018 7:41PM EDT
With just weeks to go before students head back to school, hundreds of Ontario’s elementary teachers took a stand against the looming repeal of the sex-ed curriculum.
Members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) marched from their annual meeting at the Sheraton Centre hotel to Queen’s Park in a strong show of opposition.
Just yesterday, the union denounced Ford’s plan to revert to the 1998 curriculum, calling it “irresponsible, discriminatory” and unsafe.
President Sam Hammond, who has been openly critical of the approach, advised members to continue to use their “professional judgement” when teaching the dated curriculum.
“We want to be on the right side of history in terms of this, in terms of our students. We need to – and there is a professional responsibility for us – to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students on an ongoing basis,” Hammond told CP24 at the rally. “We’re going to stand up for the rights our members have across this province and we’re going to defend them.”
Premier Doug Ford’s election promise to revert back to a decades-old lesson plan became a reality in June. He vowed to enact what he called the “largest consultation ever in Ontario’s history” before revamping the curriculum. In the meantime, many parents and teachers have been left in the dark about what they're required to teach students in the fall.
The 20-year-old curriculum does not include topics like LGBTQ rights, online bullying, sexting and consent.
Hammond said he has not heard from Education Minister Lisa Thompson nor has the government formally instructed boards on how to handle the curriculum.
With the start of school just three weeks away, the uncertainty has angered educators across the province, he said.
Nancy Brady, a principal in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, said that she’s hopeful the government will consider the concerns coming from educators.
“I think right now it’s hard for us to take any stand. There’s been confusion about what we might be teaching, we might not be teaching. We’re not completely clear yet on what the minister of education or what the government of Ontario is going to do around the health curriculum,” she said. “I hope the premier was listening.
Hammond urged the province to avoid “chaos” and allow teachers to continue with the 2015 curriculum while the consultations are conducted.
“Just leave the current curriculum in place,” he said. “If they need feel they need to consult with parents and others, certainly do that, but leave this in place and don’t breed the chaos they’ve created in the education system.”
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath expressed similar sentiments at both the ETFO’s annual meeting and the rally at Queen’s Park.
She pointed to the strides Ontario has made in recent years with rules and regulations surrounding sexual assaults on campuses as a way the government has tried to modernize, and suggested that Ford’s plan is eroding that.
“It’s not 1998 anymore. It’s 2018 and our children should be the primary concern of Mr. Ford and his government, not his social conservative base and radical folks that have, behind closed doors, convinced him that this curriculum has to change,” she said. “It is absolutely the wrong direction, it’s dragging our province backwards and it is highly irresponsible.”
Last week, Horwath delivered a petition to the legislature signed by more than 1,000 health-care professionals which condemned Ford’s decision as a health risk.
A group of Ontario families has also announced plans to launch a human rights case over the legislature. They allege the curriculum should be considered unlawful and particularly puts LGBTQ identifying students at risk.