Queen’s Park revisits sex ed curriculum changes

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TORONTO – Ontario will quiz a select group of parents about age-appropriate sex education in schools.

Only one parent from each elementary school will be allowed to fill out the online confidential survey, and that person will be handpicked by the school principal.

After a strong public backlash, the province withdrew a previous proposal to teach children at an earlier age about sexuality, starting in Grade 1 with the proper names for genitals.

Former premier Dalton McGuinty promised in 2010 to consult with parents before implementing a new health and physical education curriculum — a commitment that was repeated by Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Wynne was education minister at the time the controversial course rewrite was introduced.

That curriculum proposal mandated that sex education begin in Grade 1 and progress in Grade 3 to same-sex relations and gender identity and by Grade 8 have covered many sensitive subjects such as masturbation, and oral and anal sex.

The parent survey does not ask for their opinion on these topics specifically but does question whether they agree with statements such as, “I believe that it’s important for my child to learn about sexual health concepts before they face a situation where they may need the information.”

About 4,000 parents will be asked to fill out the survey this fall.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Liz Sandals said school principals, who have better knowledge of their school communities, will choose the parent who participates in the survey likely from parent councils.

Other parents can provide input through different options.

Information gleaned from the parent survey will be used, along with work already done developing the previous curriculum, to draw up the new version which will be in place for the start of the next school year.

“Students need to have the best information possible so they can make informed decisions about their health and well-being,” Sandals said in a statement. “In our increasingly interconnected world, students often get information from unreliable and inaccurate sources. That is why an up-to-date, relevant and appropriate health and physical education curriculum is needed now more than ever, and is why we are committed to having one in place for the 2015 school year.”

NDP Education Critic Peter Tabuns said he hopes the government won’t shy away from modernizing the sex ed curriculum this time around.

“For years, the Liberals have been talking about updating the sex ed curriculum, but got cold feet and left our students using outdated materials,” Tabuns said.

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