For the first time in weeks, Ontario's Education Minister speaks on sex ed

Ontario's Education Minister Lisa Thompson spoke to reporters for the first time in two weeks on Monday, but said nothing to dispel the confusion surrounding the province's plan to revert to the 1998 sexual education curriculum.

School board, teachers' union say government not providing any information on changes

Education Minister Lisa Thompson said students will be taught from the 2014 sex-ed curriculum and insisted teachers are familiar with those lesson plans. (CBC)

Ontario's Education Minister Lisa Thompson spoke to reporters for the first time in two weeks on Monday, but said nothing to dispel the confusion surrounding the province's plan to revert to the 1998 sexual education curriculum.

Since July 16, Thompson has not made herself available to reporters after question period. The Minister said she was in Ottawa for a Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians conference.

Reporters were quick to ask about what version of the sex-ed curriculum teachers would use come September. 

"Teachers are going to be going back to what they were taught in 2014 and they're familiar with that curriculum," Thompson said.

What I would like to say is teachers will be going back to what they taught in 2014.- Lisa Thompson, Ontario Education Minister

Thompson was then asked whether issues such as consent, cyberbullying and gender identity will be taught, to which she would only say that teachers will be going back the 2014 curriculum. That curriculum — which teachers say is identical to the curriculum from 1998 — doesn't address any of those issues.

"What I would like to say is teachers will be going back to what they taught in 2014. I have every confidence in our teachers and in the interim, in tandem we will be consulting with our parents," Thompson said.

Last week, Health Minister Christine Elliott also said the 2014 curriculum would be taught, but said teachers can discuss issues not included in the province's sex-education curriculum with students in private. She added those chats should occur in private, "rather than a classroom discussion," which sparked outcry from teachers and the Opposition NDP.

Confusion still ensues

In recent weeks, a number of school boards have demanded clarity from the education ministry about what they can teach this fall.

The Toronto District School Board said Monday it has received no notification from the ministry of any proposed changes to the sex-ed curriculum this fall.

Similarly, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) said it hasn't received any notice that teachers should be reverting to the old curriculum and it refuted Thompson's claim that teachers are familiar with it.

"Thousands of teachers have been hired since the implementation of [the new curriculum] in September of 2015 who have no idea what the minister is referring to," said Sam Hammond, ETFO's president.

"That 1998 [curriculum] document is gone. All of the resources for that document are gone because three years later people have moved on."

Unclear if teachers risk punishment for teaching modernized curriculum

The provincial government has not said whether teachers or school boards will be punished for continuing to teach the modernized sex-ed curriculum that was brought in by the former Liberal government.

"The closer we get to September, we will give [teachers]  very clear guidelines and advice as to how to move forward," said Hammond.

"But our members are going to use their professional judgment to ensure the wellbeing and safety of students throughout the 2018-2019 school year."

About the Author

Farrah Merali

Reporter

Farrah Merali is a reporter with CBC Toronto with a passion for politics and urban health issues. She previously worked as the early morning reporter at CBC Vancouver. Follow her at @FarrahMerali