Old Ontario sex-education curriculum 'not reflective' of current issues, Thunder Bay board says

The English public school board, in the Thunder Bay area, is adding its voice to nearly 30 other public boards in Ontario concerned about the province's plans to roll back the health and physical education curriculum this fall.

"We're not talking about a buck-a-beer here, we're talking about kids' lives," says Lakehead Schools official

Ian MacRae is the Director of Education for Lakehead Public Schools. (Lakehead Public Schools)

The English public school board in the Thunder Bay area is adding its voice to nearly 30 other public boards in Ontario concerned about the province's plans to roll back the health and physical education curriculum this fall.

The 1998 version of the health and physical education curriculum is slated to be taught in schools starting in September. A return to the 20-year-old curriculum was one of Premier Doug Ford's campaign promises and effectively does away with revamped sex education introduced in 2015.

That rollback isn't sitting well with Ian MacRae, the director of education for Lakehead Public Schools. He sent a letter to Lisa Thompson, the provincial minister of education, outlining the board's concerns that the 20-year-old curriculum doesn't address current issues, like internet safety, sexual orientation, gender identity and consent.

"Unfortunately, there are students who don't have the benefit of parental direction on those issues," MacRae said.

"We feel that it's our responsibility to provide that to them and that all students be made aware of consent and how it impacts them in their daily lives and certainly at school."

Not teaching those components "is a non-starter for us," he added.

Lakehead board 'believes strongly in equity and inclusion'

The Ford government's decision has been met with opposition from school boards, political opponents, health care professionals and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The government has promised consultation with "parents from all across Ontario," on the issue.

While MacRae said the board realizes that the new government has the right to pursue consultation it is more comfortable with in developing a new curriculum, "we're not talking about a buck-a-beer here, we're talking about kids' lives."

MacRae's letter said that the board "believes strongly in equity and inclusion," and that those values are at the core of the board's strategic plan.

"The 1998 health and physical education curriculum is not reflective of the realities of the current issues facing our students," the letter read.

Change in curriculum not in 'best interest of our students'

"We do not believe that this change to the curriculum is in the best interest of our students," MacRae stated in the letter, which was released Wednesday.

The board said it will continue to provide "safe equitable and inclusive learning environments," while waiting for further clarification from the Ministry of Education.

MacRae's letter added that Lakehead Public Schools supports the position taken by the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, which backs the 2015 sex education curriculum and seeks clarity for school boards on the issue heading into the 2018-2019 school year.