More than 1,100 children remained home Tuesday from Thorncliffe Park Public School to protest Ontario’s proposed new sex education curriculum.
Only 220 children showed up for class Tuesday, up slightly from just 130 Monday, when parents of most of the school’s 1,350 students not only kept their children out of school but led a protest rally against the curriculum outside the constituency office of Premier Kathleen Wynne.
However some parents who took their kids out of school Monday, like Thorncliffe father of three Abdul Azeem, said it was not possible for him to take part in the boycott for the proposed full five days.
Azeem said he believes the curriculum is too explicit for children at a young age.
“I want my kids to come home from school and play with toys, not their body parts,” he said. “Why are we introducing these concepts to kids who aren’t even old enough to tie their shoelaces?”
In Toronto, some 20,000 more children were absent Monday than were away the previous week, and many of the schools were in the area of Thorncliffe Park, which is home to the largest Muslim community in Canada.
“We hope students continue to return to school and we hope parents continue to access the government’s resource materials about the new curriculum,” said TDSB spokesperson Shari Schwartz-Maltz. “In many of the schools there is dialogue happening (about the curriculum) between teachers, parents and principals. Principals know their community and parents often feel comfortable asking about parts of the curriculum where they need more information or are confused. In many cases, the principals can clear up the confusion.
In York Region’s Markham Gateway Public School, the percentage of children being kept home because of the boycott Tuesday fell to 20 per cent from 40 per cent Monday.
In Peel Region, early signs were that there were more students in class Tuesday than Monday, said spokesperson Brian Woodland.
Speaking to reporters Monday at Queen’s Park, Education Minister Liz Sandals said she was “really concerned about pulling kids out of school” to protest the new sex-education curriculum.
“If parents pull their kids of school, that means they’re missing English, they’re missing math, they’re missing science, they’re missing social studies, they’re missing phys-ed,” said Sandals.
“Given that the central health part of the curriculum is . . . less than 10 per cent of the curriculum, they’re probably actually not withdrawing them from the thing they’re protesting.”
Her comments came as about 150 parents and students rallied outside the legislature against the new health syllabus.
With files from Robert Benzie