Two Toronto Catholic school trustees are calling for a one-year delay of Ontario’s new sex education curriculum to give parents a chance to respond to lessons they believe contradict Catholic values.
Trustees Angela Kennedy and Garry Tanuan want the Toronto Catholic District School Board to delay implementation of the curriculum, to be launched this fall across the province, because they say it doesn’t present sexuality in the context of love and marriage.
The fact that Catholic educators are being allowed to design special resources to help Catholic teachers present the material within a Catholic framework only proves the material is controversial to begin with, they suggest.
“Substantial parts of the curriculum contradict Catholic teachings,” said Kennedy in a joint statement released Thursday morning with Tanuan.
“To me the fact that the government has allowed a special teaching resource for Catholic schools to deliver the program is a red flag,” she said. “Even if (Catholic) teachers get different teacher prompts (suggestions for classroom discussion) it doesn’t seem like a total solution if they have to teach general expectations that we disagree with.
“Catholic schools shouldn’t be forced to teach a program that doesn’t ground the expression of sexuality in love and marriage.”
Tanuan said he favors waiting for a year to let Catholic trustees see the special teachers’ resources being developed for Catholic schools, which he said are scheduled to be released mid-fall.
“Then we can assure parents with certainty that children won’t be taught a philosophy that Catholics don’t believe in.”
The provincial government has insisted it will launch the long-awaited curriculum this fall because it gives crucial information on healthy relationships, cyber-bullying and helps students understand the concept of giving – or denying – consent to sexual activity. A wide coalition of health and education experts has called on the curriculum to prepare young people in an age of sexting, early puberty and easy access to pornography.
However some parents oppose the information presented as not age appropriate, and say they believe this sort of information is best left to parents. Thousands of parents kept their children home for a week in a recent boycott to protest the curriculum.
Kennedy said Ontario's Education Act gives school trustees the power to determine whether curriculum is appropriate for Catholic schools. After witnessing concerns from some parents in both public and Catholic schools over the curriculum, Kennedy and Tanuan said they feel a responsibility to stand with parents in the public boards who think the program will teach kids to separate sex from loving, committed marital relationships.
“If it’s wrong for Catholic kids, then it’s wrong for all kids,” said Kennedy.
In 2013 Tanuan proposed a motion that his board oppose a new government requirement that schools allow gay-straight alliance clubs. Kennedy supported the motion, but it failed to win a majority of support from fellow trustees.
Police were called recently to Halton’s Catholic school board after a motion seeking to delay teaching Ontario’s new sex-ed curriculum failed, sparking conflict among a large crowd gathered in the foyer.
The fracas occurred just days before another protest rally was organized at Queen’s Park to protest the new health and physical education lessons, which are the first update to sex-ed in this province in more than two decades.
With files from Kristin Rushowy.