Although Ontario revealed its long awaited Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum about a month ago, the storm of questions and concerns surrounding the document is still swirling.
Education Minister Liz Sandals said earlier this month that the sexual education curriculum is modernized, addressing issues for Grades 1 to 12 that the document it replaces never envisioned, such as the hazards of the internet and sexting. The last time the curriculum was updated was in 1998 – 17 years ago. Details on the new Health and Physical Education Curriculum can be found by clicking here.
The education minister is quoted as saying that the material relating to sex is only about 10 per cent of the overall document with it also including health lessons about nutrition and why physical activity is important. Even so, that’s the portion which has received the most attention in the weeks following the release of the new curriculum overview.
The revised material has many parents voicing concerns and looking for options to exclude their children from the teachings. In fact, Ontario’s Education Act outlines that a parent has the right to withdraw their child from classroom content that they don’t want their child to receive – in any subject.
Bob Schreader, vice-president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association told the National Post that parents do have the right to pull their children from sexual education classes, although it happens infrequently. Schreader noted that parental concerns are often alleviated by talking to teachers instead of removing children from classes. He went on to say while the curriculum will be adhered to in Catholic schools as well, as a Catholic community it will be delivered through a Catholic lens.
Currently in Catholic elementary schools, the Fully Alive program presents family life education, with the goal of offering a distinctively Catholic view of human life, sexuality, marriage and family.
The Institute for Catholic Education, which is implementing the new curriculum in Catholic schools across Ontario, was involved in initial planning discussion surrounding the new curriculum. The Institute works on behalf of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario.
Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, released a statement earlier this month which says that Catholic teachings will continue under the new health and physical education curriculum. “While Catholic schools have a responsibility to follow the curriculum set out by the Ministry of Education, they have always sought to do so in a way that conveys, respects and models Catholic Christian principles to our students,” the statement reads. “They will continue this tradition.”