Northern schools to defy sex ed order—'There's no point going back to 1998. It just doesn't make sense'

With less than a month before kids go back to class, northern Ontario schools have some big questions about sex ed. But what gets covered could differ school to school and classroom to classroom.

Progressive Conservative government says consultations on new curriculum will start this fall

The province says it wants schools to go back to teaching the 1998 sexual education curriculum, but some in northern Ontario are not willing to totally abandon the 2015 lesson plan. (CBC)

Barb Blasutti says she's fearing that a chaotic school year could be ahead for Ontario.

The president of the Rainbow District Board local of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario says her members are anxious over the confusion about the sexual education curriculum.

Premier Doug Ford kept a campaign promise by ordering the new curriculum drawn up by the Liberal government in 2015 be scrapped and replaced with the previous curriculum from 1998.

The government says it will begin consultations on drawing up a new sex ed plan this fall, after classes have resumed. 

"This is a mess that did not need to be created," says Blasutti. 

About two dozen school boards across the province have spoken out against the move, fearing that not providing information about topics such as sexting and gender identity in 2018 would be a disservice to students.

Barb Blasutti is the president of the Rainbow board local of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

The Rainbow board is one of them, releasing a statement saying it seeks clarification from the ministry, but wishes to go ahead with the current curriculum for this school year.

"Many topics covered in the 2015 curriculum have tremendous merit. For us to replace it in its entirety, in my view, is premature," Rainbow director of education Norm Blaseg said in a statement.

"The old curriculum does not reflect current realities. In fact, it does not align with some of the newer expectations from the Ministry of Education, for instance, our work in equity and inclusive education."

Blasutti also says it will be tough for teachers to learn or re-learn the 1998 curriculum in time to teach it in September.

"It Is very difficult, very challenging, it's very stressful and completely unnecessary," she says. 

The French Catholic board in the north, the Conseil Scolaire Catholique du Nouvel-Ontario told the CBC it's too early to discuss sex ed for this school year, as it awaits clarification from the province.

David Thompson is chair of the Near North District School Board. (Twitter)

The Near North District School Board is awaiting similar clarification, but chair David Thompson says their schools will definitely not toss out everything from the 2015 curriculum.

​"There's no point going back to 1998. It just doesn't make sense," he says. 

Thompson would like to see the province go ahead with the current curriculum for this coming school year and use it as a starting point for consultations to revamp how sexual education is covered in Ontario schools.

He and Blasutti both point out that individual teachers also have a lot of discretion on how material is presented to students, regardless of what the provincial curriculum says.

"You know, they certainly bring their flavour to the classroom and stress certain areas that they feel are important," says Thompson. 

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury, Ont. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.