Windsor

Windsor teachers' union says missing pieces of interim sex-ed plan leave children 'vulnerable'

The local branch president of the Ontario teachers union says educators need to decide if they want to talk to their students about topics not covered by the Ford government's interim sex-ed curriculum. But the Conservative leader's hard line may not make the choice so easy.

Head of parents' group calls Ford government's complaint form "disappointing"

Adelina Cecchin, president of the Greater Essex branch of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, says educators need to decide if they want to talk to their students about topics not covered by the Ford government's interim sex-ed curriculum. But the Conservative leader's hard line may not make the choice so easy. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"This is how we leave students with the skills, language and knowledge to not leave them vulnerable when we're faced with these realities."

Those realities, according to Adelina Cecchin, president of the Greater Essex branch of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, include consent, cyber bullying and sexting — all topics which are absent from the Ford government's interim sex-ed curriculum.

Teachers will use the 2014 health and physical education material, which has been denounced by critics as the guidelines have been in place since 1998, predating smartphones, social media and the legalization of same-sex marriage.

For Cecchin, each teacher will have to consider whether they want to have conversations with their students about more modern forms of sexual education. But that decision, however, may not be an easy one.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says teachers will be expected to teach the interim sex-ed curriculum, and the government will act if they don't. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The snitch line

"If we find somebody failing to do their job, we will act," Ford said in a press release Wednesday.

The provincial government has unveiled a new website called ForTheParents.ca which is "designed to give parents a portal to provide feedback about concerns related to the curriculum."

Any parent who believes a teacher is "jeopardizing their child's education by deliberately ignoring Ontario's curriculum" can alert the Ontario College of Teachers' investigations department if they don't adhere to it via email or phone.

​"I was absolutely floored. When you hear about this tip line, it's really difficult as a parent to know where to turn," said Kristen Siapas, chair of the public school board's Parent Involvement Committee.

Kristen Siapas, chair of the public school board's Parent Involvement Committee, finds the Ford government's anonymous complaint form to be "disappointing." Any parent who believes a teacher is ignoring the interim curriculum can alert the Ontario College of Teachers' investigations department by email or phone. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"We don't need another avenue for complaints. If a parent has a problem with a teacher in a classroom, they know that they can go to their teacher and they can talk to them,"

Siapas favours the current system of filing complaints. She said that involves having a discussion with a teacher face-to-face. If that doesn't go the parent's way, complaints can be forwarded to a trustee and they will be followed up on from there.

Ford's release on Wednesday did not explain how complaints will be handled under the new system.

Having to act quickly

Elementary schools in Ontario only have a couple weeks to adjust to the interim curriculum. Representatives from the Greater Essex County District School Board told CBC News they are shocked that the news has come in so late into the summer.

Superintendent Clara Howitt said parents will receive communications from the board once they have all the necessary information about the interim curriculum.

Superintendent Clara Howitt said parents will receive communications from the public board once they have all the necessary information about the interim curriculum. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"Our job is to seek to understand, understand what we need to do and then move forward with it so that we are helping people do the work that they needed to do," Howitt said.

Kim McKinley, chairperson of the public board, said they have yet to receive one complaint by email or phone all summer about the Ford-implemented changes.

As for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, they will not be making too many adjustments to their curriculum based on the way its currently taught, according to chairperson Barbara Holland.

with files from the CBC's Chris Ensing and John Rieti

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