BY KATHY MCDONALD
The Ministry of Education revised the Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum. This update was well overdue as there have been significant social and technological changes since 1998. The curriculum is not new, it is now more relevant and pertinent. The Sexual Educational component is a small portion of the HPE but it is a very important one. The teaching of the human development and sexual health component will be delayed until the spring of 2016. This will give teachers a chance to get to know their students, to develop a rapport and to gain the children’s confidence and trust. Parents will be given advance notice and information on all sensitive subject matters. There are only two to five lessons that relate to the human development and sexual health. At the PDSB and I dare say all boards across Ontario parents play a crucial role in supporting the curriculum.
As a parent you have the right to opt out of any part of the curriculum. Schools in Peel District School Board will not make accommodations for students when teaching subject matter protected under the Human Rights Code. Parents still have the choice to keep their kids home that day. Parents, I would caution you to remember that issues like same sex parents and discussions around gender are discussions that we need to have at an earlier age by virtue of the fact that kids are being exposed to such topics at a very early age. They have classmates that have same sex parents and gender identity issues.
At the PDSB the new HPE parent guide is a good example of transparency and it has been translated into several languages. This document has been endorsed by several faith leaders from the Christian, Muslim and Sikh faith, the PDSB Parents Involvement Committee as well as several community groups with the Region of Peel. The HPE guide helps parents navigate the revisions to the curriculum. The guide debunks the myths and clear and logically defines the facts.
I can assure that children won’t be learning to have sex in grade one, they will not see demonstrations of anal sex in grade four, the will not get a crash course in masturbation in grade six or oral sex seminars in grade seven. I often ask parents to look your teachers, principals and vice principals in the eye and then ask yourself if you can realistically conceive of them demonstrating to your child such activities. The curriculum will not make kids more prone to having sex in fact the converse is true. There is a strong push towards educating students around what consent is and that NO MEANS NO. Students are taught to stand up for themselves. The curriculum stresses abstinence and waiting before making such important decisions. It emphasizes the need to be responsible and highlights the importance of safe and healthy relationships. Students will be taught to use the internet and technology safely. The will learn to be a responsible digital citizen. They are exposed to the harsh reality of an “internet mistake”…sexting. Nurturing mental health, respect and inclusivity for all communities including Black and Caribbean peoples are all exciting components of the HPE.
Most teachers are dedicated professionals that often have children of their own. They are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters. Speaking about sex in a responsible way won’t rob children of their innocence. Quite the contrary. It will equip then to make safe and informed decisions pertaining to their bodies. Kids by the tender age of six are exposed to such a vast array of sexual messages via the internet, the TV, printed media and advertisements that it can only be prudent to have a knowledgeable and caring adult help them navigate the barrage of sexual information they receive. I would much rather a trained professional than a blogger, a vine or a tweet. Parents must also remember that you are your child’s first teacher, their most important teacher and the teacher that ultimately has the greatest impact on your child’s life. So stay in constant communication with the teacher and always keep the lines of communication open with your child.
Walk Good Belle Marche!!