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Canada Families to launch human rights case over outdated sex-ed curriculum

15:12  09 august  2018
15:12  09 august  2018 Source:   thestar.com

More Ontario school boards join sex-ed curriculum protest

  More Ontario school boards join sex-ed curriculum protest Twenty school boards have now spoken out about the province reverting back to a two-decade-old sex-ed curriculum — some raising concerns that by avoiding talk of gender or same-sex families boards could find themselves in violation of human rights legislation. Boards are now appealing to the education ministry for clarity on what educators are to teach this fall, given the confusing messages from key government ministers. The old sex-edTwenty school boards have now spoken out about the province reverting back to a two-decade-old sex-ed curriculum — some raising concerns that by avoiding talk of gender or same-sex families boards could find themselves in violation of human rights legislation.

The Fairfax County School Board swiftly sidelined concerns over graphic sex ed material in its latest public meeting. Austin Ruse is president of The Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), a U.S.-based research institute that works with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and the

A Sex education curriculum is a sex education program encompassing the methods, materials, and assessments exercised to inform individuals of the issues relating to human sexuality, including human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, reproductive health, emotional relations

a man in a suit standing in front of a building: Lawyers Marcus McCann, right, and Mika Imai will be announcing a human rights challenge on Aug. 9, 2018 of the province’s plans to change the sex-ed curriculum. At least six Ontario families are launching the case, saying the curriculum changes will harm their children. © Rene Johnston Lawyers Marcus McCann, right, and Mika Imai will be announcing a human rights challenge on Aug. 9, 2018 of the province’s plans to change the sex-ed curriculum. At least six Ontario families are launching the case, saying the curriculum changes will harm their children.

At least six Ontario families are launching a human rights case over the province’s plan to use an outdated sex-ed curriculum, saying it will harm their children — the first legal challenge amid a growing backlash over reviving the two-decade-old lessons and the impact on LGBTQ youth.

While the main applicant is an 11-year-old trans youth from rural Ontario, a number of families from Guelph, Toronto, Sudbury and other cities will support the case with evidence of how the new curriculum — which the Ford government said it will suspend this fall — helped support their elementary school children.

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Education leaders and human rights campaigners have criticised Government proposals over compulsory sex education for "ignoring" LGBT issues and creating a "get- out clause" for faith schools.

All of the kids involved in the case are younger than 13.

“We’ve been in conversation with parents of trans and queer youth, currently in Grades K to 8 … and these families are very concerned about the planned changes,” said lawyer Marcus McCann, who along with colleague Mika Imai will be announcing the human rights challenge Thursday at Queen’s Park.

“Our belief is that shelving the curriculum is raising red flags from a human rights perspective.”

Imai said they will request an expedited hearing, and may seek an interim order to keep the updated curriculum in place this fall.

While the families were going to hold off until the government officially ordered boards to revert to the 1998 curriculum, with school just weeks away “we just can’t wait,” added McCann. “The stakes are too high.”

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Sex education is the instruction of issues relating to human sexuality, including emotional relations and responsibilities, human sexual anatomy, sexual activity, sexual reproduction, age of consent

The county's Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee formally recommended changes to the county's sex - ed curriculum that would impact The doctor makes a decision of the best sex assignment in that case and is not the context of FLE." "In the context of human reproduction and

On Wednesday, another public school board issued a statement of concern about reviving the old curriculum, which was used from 1998 to 2014 and contains no mention of same-sex families, gender identity, cyberbullying or sexual consent.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson said her government is fulfilling a campaign promise by holding public consultations on the new curriculum, in use since 2015, after hearing from some parents who complained they were not consulted and that the material is not age-appropriate.

The government will begin consultations this fall, although no specifics have been released.

Thompson has said the ministry will work with boards to provide resources for the 20-year-old curriculum and that there’s “ample room” to discuss issues not covered in it.

Jake Somerville’s child began transitioning in kindergarten and “we found that the school, the teachers, played a really big role,” said the Guelph father, helping her socially and “working with children in the classroom who had a lot of questions about what she was going through.”

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Each time health instructor Konstance McCaffree started her junior high unit on human sexuality, she would open it up to questions from the 15-year-old students. Shy and embarrassed about the “taboo” subject, they’d either stay quiet or protest that they’d heard it all before.

She and other concerned moms began networking together to launch a protest called " Sex Ed Sit Out "; they 'Hands Off Our Kids,' Protesters Say to Judge in Transgender Custody Case . Most parents are simply unaware that groups like Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign

The teachers brought in books and would talk about boys wearing dresses or wanting to, and rather than separating boys from the girls for classroom groupings, teachers would find other ways — not related to gender — to do so.

“That was in 2015,” Somerville said. “The (new) curriculum had already started. We found the teachers … were so knowledgeable about what needed to be done … we didn’t have very much exposure to the trans community, so it was refreshing to go into the school system” and be supported.

By using the old curriculum, “it leaves it open for every single school to have a different climate, all across the board,” said Somerville.

For families outside of Toronto, the worry is greater because they are fewer supports available outside of school, said Sudbury mom Sylvie Liard, who has one young child she describes as gender non-conforming.

“Going back to the older curriculum, where nothing was addressed, is unfathomable,” she said.

NDP Health Critic France Gélinas, who represents Nickel Belt, said “in northern Ontario, you are lucky if you have a family physician. If you can see your family physician within six weeks, you are doubly lucky.”

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Comprehensive sex education (CSE) is a sex education instruction method based on- curriculum that aims to give students the knowledge, attitudes, skills and values to make appropriate and healthy choices in their sexual lives.

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That means schools are the only way for families to get information, she added. “There is just no other infrastructure for that kind of knowledge to be shared in a way that is positive, in a way that is factual, in a way that gives you hope.”

Some school boards have said they will continue to be inclusive and promote equity, and talk about same-sex families, consent and other issues not covered in the old lessons.

A Toronto mom involved in the human rights case said her 11-year-old, who does not want to be labelled, was targeted at his elementary school, called names and beaten by a bully.

But a new principal and teachers helped turn things around, she said.

“Now he wears what he wants to school, and has his hair the way he wants to” and “has a strong support system” among teachers and classmates.

“Having this education at school has taught him to have a voice and acknowledge there’s nothing wrong with him,” she said. “He’s totally okay and the rest of the world needs to catch up to him.”

Parents are creating an online fundraising campaign to help cover their legal costs.

McCann, of law firm Symes Street & Millard, said other organizations are also expected to launch legal challenges in the coming days.

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

Rolling back sex-ed curriculum ‘irresponsible, reckless,’ teachers’ union president says .
The union representing the province’s public elementary school teachers is denouncing the province’s plans to scrap the current sex-ed curriculum, saying reverting to the 1998 lesson plan is “irresponsible, discriminatory and jeopardizes the safety of the students.” At the annual meeting of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, members were told Monday to exercise their professional judgment when it comes to teaching all sections of the current curriculum, which was introduced in 2015.

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