Windsor LGBTQ leaders rip into interim sex-ed curriculum
'We are stifling our province from truly becoming an inclusive province'
LGBTQ leaders in Windsor, Ont. are speaking out against the Ontario government's interim sex-ed curriculum for elementary school teachers saying that it's endangering the lives of LGBTQ kids, and they're encouraging parents and allies to voice their complaints to the school board.
The Ford government has faced sharp criticism from a number of groups — including teachers' unions, many parents and the Official Opposition — over its decision to scrap the modernized sex-ed curriculum brought in by the former Liberal government in 2015, which included information about online bullying, sexting and gender identity.
"For me, this is outright homophobia and transphobia this rollback. No questions asked, that's what this is," said Crystal Fach, the executive director of DiverseCITY, who is also a mother.
"This is erasing vulnerable people in our education system and in our community, and I'm worried — thoroughly worried as a parent."
Leaders say this roll back will harm children
The government's news release says teachers will use the 2014 health and physical education curriculum, which has been denounced by critics as the guidelines have been in place since 1998, predating smart phones, social media and the legalization of same-sex marriage.
"A lot of the things I've seen is that LGBTQ identities are completely erased from the curriculum," Fach said.
Jayce Carver, the executive director of W.E. Trans Support says these changes to the curriculum are putting kids at risk.
"When we completely erase trans identities from education, we continue to harm children," she said.
She said suicide rates could stay static or go up, and trans people will feel like they don't have a right to identify.
'It isolates my kids'
Fach is also concerned as a mother herself.
"As a parent, you know, my kids live in a home where they have a lesbian mom. So when we're teaching young people about families and not describing all types of families, it isolates my kids."
They both stressed how important it is to educate all kids about LGBTQ identities in order to foster acceptance, and reduce bullying.
"It's not the trans kids always that need the education," Carver said.
"They do, don't get me wrong, they need to hear about themselves in this curriculum, but it's the cis kids and the straight kids who are around them that desperately need this education so that they don't 'other' these other school mates, that they don't start to bully because they're not taught that this kind of bullying is wrong, or that people can be different and inclusive."
Both Fach and Carver expressed concern over the province's new tip line. It's a new website unveiled by the province called ForTheParents.ca which will be a portal for parents to provide feedback about concerns related to the curriculum. Parents can alert the Ontario College of Teachers' investigations department by email or phone if they believe a teacher isn't following the curriculum.
"We're making teachers fearful of being empathetic and providing information that our kids are starving for. How is that forward thinking?" Carver said.
Calling on parents and allies
Both W.E. Trans Support and DiverseCITY are calling on parents and allies to call school boards and complain about the roll back.
"I challenge parents out there," said Fach.
"I know I'm going to be calling. We need to be flooding these lines saying that this is not okay and that our children deserve this education. And not just LGBTQ parents, parents with LGBTQ kids, allies of this community, anybody with a child, like you're putting your children at risk."
The two organizations are also planning on working together to start a letter writing campaign and create their own LGBTQ sex education program where "kids can come learn about themselves and how they are not sick, wrong or bad, and they can exist, truly as who they feel they are on the inside," Carver explained.
She added that these changes to the curriculum are a major step backwards when it comes to building a more inclusive future.
"We are stifling our youth from growing. We are stifling our province from truly becoming an inclusive province."
With files from Chris Ensing & John Rieti