One of Doug Ford’s campaign promises was to remove the 2015 sex-ed curriculum for elementary students. He is, unfortunately, keeping his word.
Instead of being allowed to continue with the 2015 curriculum, which is more diverse and covers sensitive topics such as same-sex marriage, teachers must now follow the more conservative one from 1998, until the education ministry creates a new one.
So here’s the big question: Who will take responsibility if the safety of students is at risk due to a lack of knowledge?
According to an online report, 60 per cent of sexual-assault victims are 17 years old or younger; 80 per cent of accusers are either friends or family of the victim; and sexual assault is not limited to the physical, but includes the verbal, as well.
Gerry Connelly, a former director at the Toronto District School Board, said in an article that she worries students will begin to think sexual harassment is a usual part of school life. That article came out 10 years ago. It is unacceptable that these inappropriate behaviours are being normalized. Many teenagers don’t even know the meaning of “sexual harassment” and are not knowledgable when it comes to sex and safety.
If students don’t learn about sex-ed in school, they could turn to potentially unsafe sources, like movies and music.
Also troubling is the role of social media. A recent survey of 800 Canadian students from the ages of 16 to 20 showed that six out of 10 had received a sext, and four out of 10 had sent one. Almost half of the senders confessed that their sexts were shown to other people without permission. This often happens because the senders don’t know the seriousness of sexting and the receivers don’t know how to say no.
The 2015 sex-ed curriculum not only teaches elementary students about sensitive topics like LGBTQ, it also covers critically important topics such as consent and online safety. The earlier children learn about those, the earlier they’ll realize which actions are acceptable and which are not.
Ford, however, is insisting teachers go back to the 1998 curriculum, saying he will soon create a new “age-appropriate” curriculum. Teachers who still use the one from 2015, he emphasizes, will face consequences. “Make no mistake, if we find somebody failing to do their job, we will act.”
Mistake? What Ford is insisting on doing is the mistake. Just because students now follow the 1998 curriculum does not mean the world is a better place.
So let’s ask one final question: Which is more important, protecting students or keeping a campaign promise?