Sex Education Dispute at Ontario School Drives Protests, Debate


Parents in an Ontario school are protesting against a sex education curriculum by keeping their kids out of a classroom they say presents them with age-inappropriate material.

The dispute between parents and the Ontario Ministry of Education is keeping half of Toronto's Thorncliffe Park Public school students out of the classroom. The sex ed curriculum is threatening to become a federal election issue, The Globe and Mail says.

The curriculum went into effect on the first day of this school year with children attending improvised classes in a park next to the Thorncliffe Park Public school as a result.

Protesting parents are forming coalitions and even argue they will get their children out of school should the revised health and physical education curriculum remain as is. The parents argue that age-inappropriate material and even factual errors have resulted in their children learning too much too soon.

The Thorncliffe Park school is in an area with many socially-conservative Muslim immigrants coming from South Asia and the Middle East, which contributes to the strong opposition to the revised sex ed curriculum. Some parents believe that they and not teachers should decide what and when their children study regarding sex. The curriculum teaches that homosexuality is normal and acceptable, which is conflict with their religious teachings.

Many want to bring back the 1998 sex-ed curriculum which experts consider obsolete. Others with a more lenient stance say that the revised curriculum is acceptable should some sections be omitted while others should be changed:

"We're not even against sex ed in schools," John Himanen, director of communications for Parents Alliance of Ontario said. "I'm all for it, actually. But I want it to be done right."

Himanen, a father of three daughters, says he's hopeful parents and the Education Ministry will meet halfway. Otherwise, he's considering private school and homeschooling as alternatives.

School officials responded to the protest saying that classes will be delivered with "tremendous sensitivity" and "in a way that will bring comfort to everyone," The Globe and Mail reports.

Many schools in Ontario are responsive to parental concerns and requests. Parents can have their children excused from sex ed classes or request special treatment in view of their religious or personal convictions. Gary Wheeler, the Ontario Ministry of Education's senior media relations coordinator, said:

"School boards are expected to consider requests for accommodation on a case-by-case basis within the board's existing policies."

School administrators are worried that enough parents will opt their children out of sex education classes to cause student supervision issues.

Now concerns are growing that the incident will turn into a federal election issue. Protesting parents at Thorncliffe Park say that the sex education issue reflects an incompatibility between the Liberal party and religious Muslims, especially new immigrants.

The protesting parents are not orthodox Catholics and Protestants, Jonathon Van Maren says:

"Rather, it is an enormously diverse movement cutting right across cultural, ethnic, and religious lines. They are Buddhist and Sikh, Chinese and Filipino, Muslim and Christian. They all have one thing in common: They are not buying into the post-modern experiment, and they are not pleased at the idea that the new sexual orthodoxy that often directly contradicts their beliefs is being passed from the state to their children."

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