Hamilton board should ignore PC sex ed curriculum change, says trustee

A Hamilton trustee wants the school board to go rogue and teach some version of the 2015 sex ed curriculum anyway, even though the Doug Ford government has instructed boards to go back to the curriculum from 1998.

Board is trying to find ways to include parts of the modernized curriculum and still follow the rules

People rallied Saturday July 14, against a host of decisions being made by the new Progressive Conservative government including its decision to cancel the new sex ed. curriculum. (Lorenda Reddekopp/CBC)

A Hamilton trustee wants the school board to go rogue and teach some version of the 2015 sex ed curriculum anyway, even though the Doug Ford government has instructed boards to go back to the curriculum from 1998.

Larry Pattison hopes to move a motion at a Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) meeting July 31. He wants the board to use the modernized curriculum, including the existence of same-sex relationships, even if it defies the province.

"Boards across Ontario will be watching to see this," said Pattison, a father of three who represents Hamilton's central lower city.

Reverting to the old curriculum is dangerous, he said. The modernized one teaches first graders proper names for their major body parts, which helps kids communicate when they're abused. It also teaches cyber bullying.

"This is more serious than a school closure," he said. "This can save a life."

Chair Todd White says the public school board is looking for ways to include the modernized sex ed curriculum and still follow provincial rules. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press)

The likelihood of the board actually voting to defy the province is slim. But chair Todd White said there's a possible compromise.

He's working with Pattison and board staff to determine how teachers can teach the old curriculum and include messages from the modernized one. For instance, a teacher might use a same-sex couple as an example while teaching the 1998 curriculum.

Students would get information, White said. But the Ministry of Education would be less likely to seize control of the school board, which happens when a board defies provincial policy.

"We could pass a motion to equip our teachers with examples that support the 2018 delivery of the 1998 curriculum," he said.

"There is a fine line that we have to follow."

Education Minister Lisa Thompson says just because the PC government is scrapping the modernized sex-ed curriculum doesn't mean students won't learn about issues like consent this fall. (CBC)

The compromise is likely necessary to even get Pattison's motion on the floor. He'll introduce it at a special board meeting July 31. At those meetings, every trustee has to agree to debate a new subject.

Sex ed became an issue last week when Lisa Thompson, Ontario's new education minister, said she was scrapping 2015 changes the Liberals made to the sex ed curriculum.

The modernized one dealt with issues such as consent, cyber safety, sexting and same-sex marriage. Thompson said the province plans to do more public consultation.

On Monday, Thompson said teachers would include some elements of the modernized curriculum, including gender identity, consent and sexting.

Jeff Sorenson, president of the Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers Local, worries about the curriculum rollback. But he also welcomes the compromise White referenced. Otherwise, teachers would be stuck in the middle.

The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board supports the Doug Ford government doing more consultation, says chair Pat Daly. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

"Teachers are very careful in following the curriculum," he said. "We're very intent on not deviating from it."

'We need to know by September'

As for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB), chair Pat Daly supports the province getting more public input.

His board uses the Fully Alive curriculum developed with the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario.

"It's written from a Catholic position in terms of family life," Daly said. And "we don't see any conflict in the direction the (Ford) government is taking."

The rollback creates other questions. Only a sliver of the impacted curriculum is about sex ed, White said. The majority is about health and physical education. The HWDSB isn't clear on how much has to revert to 1998.

"We need to know by September."

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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