Ontario sex-ed dispute: Why 1 mother will keep her kids home

A Mississauga, Ont., mother says she would rather home school her two daughters than subject them to an Ontario sex-education curriculum she says teaches kids "too much too soon."

Mississauga, Ont., mother plans to home school her 2 daughters over opposition to new curriculum

Hundreds of parents protested outside Thorncliffe Park Public School to express their opposition to Ontario's new sex-education curriculum. (CBC)

A Mississauga, Ont., mother says she would prefer to home school her two daughters rather than subject them to an Ontario sex-education curriculum she says teaches kids "too much too soon."

Farina Siddiqui, a mother of three, appeared on CBC's Metro Morning on Wednesday, one day after nearly 700 students stayed out of Thorncliffe Park public school to protest the new sex-ed curriculum.

About half the school's population did not attend school Tuesday and instead took part in a protest against the new curriculum. Thorncliffe Park has a large immigrant population and new Canadians with conservative or strong faith-based backgrounds have been among the most vocal critics of the province's new plan.

On Wednesday, the words "shame on you" were sprayed on the walls of Thorncliffe Park public school and the neighbouring Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy. 

Siddiqui told CBC host Matt Galloway she intends to home school her two daughters, who are in Grades 6 and Grade 8, because the new curriculum doesn't mesh well with her personal beliefs as a Muslim.

"I've been thinking about it. I had a discussion with my daughters and we all decided together that it's the best solution for them," she said.

Galloway pressed Siddiqui about what she's opposed to, specifically, in the revamped curriculum.

"If I summarize it in one line, it's too much, too soon and I don't agree with that," she said.

Siddiqui said the "information sharing" in the new curriculum, in which kids learn the correct names of their body parts starting in Grade 1, begins too early.

"They don't need to learn this at this young age," she said. "They don't need to know the layers of all the body parts."

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has said "it's very unfortunate" if parents decide to take their kids out of school over opposition to the new curriculum, but said ultimately it's their decision. 

Teaching of the new curriculum begins this year. It's the first time the sex-education curriculum has been updated since 1998, and includes:

  • Students in Grade 1 will be taught the correct names of body parts.
  • By Grade 2, they will learn about the broad concept of consent.
  • By Grades 4 and 5, students will learn about puberty, while education about intercourse will take place the following year.
  • Masturbation and "gender expression" will be taught in Grade 6.
  • Students in Grades 7 and 8 will discuss contraception, anal and oral sex, preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Students will also learn about the dangers of sharing sexually explicit images through texting and social media, something that wasn't prevalent when the curriculum was last updated. 

Updates to curriculum long overdue, proponents say

Proponents of the new curriculum have said an update was long overdue to reflect the changes in society and new technology, but Siddiqui said she feels that parents, not teachers, should be the ones to teach their children about sexuality.

"I don't want the teachers, as strangers, to be talking to my children or anybody else's children about these things that are supposed to be taught by a parent," she said. "I see myself as a parent as the most important stakeholder in a child's life. I see myself as the first educator."

Siddiqui was also asked why she's taking her daughters out of school entirely rather than simply have them sit out classes when the sex-ed curriculum is taught.

She said the "opt out option is a joke" and that officials in the Peel District School Board have told her they can't accommodate students who choose to not take part in lessons about sexuality.

The provincial government has said most parents support the new curriculum, though Siddiqui said she has little faith in those survey results.

"We never saw the results," she said. "We don't have any idea who those parents were."


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