Thorncliffe protesters demonstrate against new Ontario health curriculum

An organizer of the Oct. 1 protest, pulling students out of classes at Thorncliffe Park Public School, says his group wants to send a strong message to the Ontario government regarding its new health curriculum.

About 200 parents and children gathered outside the school in East York on Oct. 1. Protestors formed human chains and marched with their picket signs on Thorncliffe Park Drive. They were protesting the new sex component of the health curriculum in Ontario’s public schools. The parents pulled more than half of the students, about 740 children, from the school for the day.

Khalid Mahood represents the Thorncliffe Parents Association, spearheading the protest.

“We want to show our frustration with the premier’s new sex-ed curriculum,” Mahood said. “The content is so explicit. What is the purpose of teaching our kids (about oral sex)?”

The Canadian Families Alliance organized the province-wide strike “Empty School Campaign” after being inspired from the protest at Thorncliffe Park Public School when classes began in September. Protestors, such as Raul Jangda, a parent of three children attending Thorncliffe Park, argue that the new content – including homosexuality, transgender and masturbation – is not suitable for their children to learn.

“It’s about consent. When the school wants to give my kids pizza or excursions they send forms for my consent. Why am I not in the picture when they talk to my kids about sex?” Jangda said.

In fact, there are only a handful of lessons per year dealing with sexual health and parents are given the outline of the curriculum and are made aware ahead of time when the topics will be discussed. Parents also have the opportunity to pull their children out of class during those lessons.

Jeff Crane, the principal at Thorncliffe Park Public School, says the protest is getting away from the curriculum.

“Thorncliffe Parents Association are a group that has strong opinions, but they’re not always the right opinions,” he said. “They’ve been sending misleading information.”

During the first week of school, many of the students did not attend class, but since then most have returned; the school had only 150 fewer students when the current protest began. The parents of some of those children have enrolled them in private schools or home schooling sessions.

Gerri Gershon, TDSB trustee for Don Valley West, advises parents not to strike and to keep them in school despite the new curriculum.

“I think it’s very harmful to the children to keep them out of school,” Gershon said. “I strongly encourage parents to send their children into the school where professionals can teach them.”