04 Sep What you need to know about the 2019-2020 Human Development and Sexual Health Curriculum
Last year, Doug Ford promised voters that if the Conservatives were elected, they would repeal the controversial 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum introduced by Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals.
At the time, Wynne stated that the 2015 curriculum brought Ontario in line with other provinces. In the fall of 2014, the Ministry of Education consulted around 4,000 parents across Ontario, 2,400 educators and other stakeholders, 700 students, as well as police, academics, and other community organizations. Ford however, insisted that parents were not consulted and as promised, he scrapped the 2015 curriculum last summer and replaced it with an interim version that was a combination of the 1998 and the 2010 revised curriculums. Read more about the interim version here.
On Wednesday August 21, the province released the 2019 Revised Health and Physical Education Curriculum, Grades 1-8, to be implemented this September. This new curriculum collected feedback from more than 72,000 parents, students, educators, employers, and organizations across the province. It covers topics on mental health, healthy relationships, cyber-bullying, consent, cannabis, vaping, concussions, body image, LGBTQ experiences and communities, homophobia, and gender identity and expression.
Human Development and Sexual Health is only one part of the Health and Physical and Education Curriculum, but it is the only component that parents/caring adults may exempt students from learning this school year. In comparison to the 2015 Human Development and Sexual Health component, there are very few differences:
(1) Body appreciation is now a mandatory topic in grade 2.
(2) Gender identity and sexual orientation have been removed as subtopics of invisible differences in grade 3. Mental illness has been included instead.
(3) The topics of sexual orientation are mandatory in grade 5 (2019), instead of grade 6 (2015).
(4) Gender identity and expression is now a mandatory topic in grade 8 (2019), instead of grade 6 (2015).
(5) Sexually explicit media (i.e., pornography) is now a mandatory topic in grade 6.
(6) Transsexual (i.e., a person who transitions from their sex assigned at birth) and intersex (i.e., a person born with male and female sex characteristics, typically assigned one or the other at birth) has been removed from the topic of gender identity in grade 8 and there is no explicit mention of them elsewhere (aside from the Glossary of Terms). Male and female, which are sexes assigned at birth, remain a topic of gender identity. Pansexual and asexual are now included in the topic of sexual orientation.
(7) Pleasure has been removed from the topic of decision-making skills in grade 8.
(8) Greater focus on consent and the legal age of consent, personal boundaries, respect for others, avoiding assumptions, discrimination (e.g., homophobia/racism), body image, mental health, and that decisions regarding sexual activity be made in consideration to being in a loving and healthy relationship.
(9) Minor edits to the terminology/language being used throughout the document (e.g., STBBIs, unplanned pregnancy/becoming a parent, self-awareness, self-acceptance, etc.)
For more detail on each topic and to compare the differences between the two curriculums, click here Comparison of Curriculums.
If a parent/caring adult wishes to opt a student out, they will be given a form 3 weeks before the lesson is to be taught. This form will need to be returned up to 5 days before the class. The form will offer the following three options:
(1) The child may remain in the classroom, but is not to be involved in the lesson.
(2) The child may be removed from the classroom and kept in a safe and supervised location elsewhere on school property.
(3) The child may be removed from the school.
As parents and caring adults who are looking to exempt students from the Human Development and Sexual Health component, ask yourselves why this is may be important to you:
How might the topics be conflicting or challenging your personal values and beliefs?
What are the short and long term benefits and harms of discussing certain topics?
What is missing from the curriculum?
Will you have these conversations instead, and to what capacity or with what resources?
This curriculum was designed in order to keep all children healthy and safe in Ontario. Many of these topics are in line with human rights at both the federal and provincial level. But, diverse perspectives about sex, sexuality, gender identity and expression, media, consent, joy, and respect (among others!) are still missing. You can address these gaps by having conversations about human development and sexual health regularly with your kids. Although they are not available yet, the Ministry of Education will be releasing online resources this 2019-2020 school year so that parents/caring adults can discuss these topics at home, once they feel ready to do so.
For more information on all of the topics being taught in the new Health and Physical Education Curriculum, click here. You can also compare the Human Development and Sexual Health components to other educational resources that describe the appropriate age to discuss sex and sexuality with children, such as About Kids Health and Caring for Kids.
Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for ideas and resources on when and how to have more ongoing talks about sex and sexuality with your kids!
Written by: Jess Boulé-Lyttle, Pronouns: they, them, theirs / she, her, hers
Jess is our office strategist at Bliss Counselling. Jess is a Master’s graduate from the University of Guelph. During their degree, they focused on aging and end-of-life, communication, human sexuality, LGBTQI2S+ health, inclusive practice and policies, knowledge mobilization strategies, research methods, and program evaluation.