Categorized | Canadian Politics

New Ontario sex ed curriculum ready for September

Posted on 26 February 2015 by admin

Children to be taught dangers of sexting

The Ontario government says its new sex education curriculum, which will start in Grade 1 and later involve discussions on the dangers of sexting, will be taught starting in September.

Education Minister Liz Sandals unveiled the new curriculum at a news conference Monday, saying the government won’t back down in the face of criticism as it did in 2010 when religious groups complained about proposed revisions.

Sandals said she anticipates some criticism, but the new lessons are key to keeping children safe.

“This will be the curriculum that is taught in Ontario schools in September 2015,” Sandals said, noting training for teachers has already been scheduled.

Sandals said many aspects of the curriculum, like telling children they have the right to say no to unwanted touching, remains the same. However, due to public health data that shows children are experiencing puberty earlier, some topics are being introduced at earlier ages.

“We need to deal with the fact that our kids are starting to go through puberty much younger than they used to,” said Sandals.

The new curriculum, which marks the first time sex education courses in Ontario have been updated since 1998, also includes more information about the role technology plays in youth sexuality.

Sandals said she hopes frank discussions about the risks of sharing explicit content online will cut down on the inappropriate material children are sharing online.

Children have questions about sex: experts

Many people who work in the sexual education field praised the changes on Monday.

Lyba Spring, who has worked as a sex educator with Toronto Public Health for some 30 years, said Ontario’s curriculum is the oldest in Canada and 16 years out of date.

Spring said the number 1 issue the curriculum needs to address is consent.

Currently, she said, “there’s no encouragement to really think through what one is willing to do.”

Spring said classes should also discuss pornography and sexting, and that there should be a section about sexual abuse in the puberty section.

And, Spring said, teachers should be ready to answer questions.

“They’re exposed to everything on the internet … but they want to hear it from a teacher,” Spring said.

Dr. Miriam Kaufman, the head of adolescent medicine at SickKids Hospital, said it’s natural for children and youth to have questions about sex.

“Kids start asking about things very, very early in terms of their own sexuality,” said Kaufman.

Those questions shouldn’t be left for parents to answer, she said.

“The parent role is essential … but as parents we’re not all that good,” Kaufman said, noting that while she’s written books on the topic and taught classes, she wasn’t good at speaking with her own children about sex.

Parents will get resources, too

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of a “quick facts” guide for parents that outlines some of the changes, including many that relate to technology.

Here’s what kids will learn:

Grade 1 – proper names for body parts and how to understand non-verbal signals like facial expressions and tone of voice.

Grade 2 – the stages of development and related bodily changes along with the concept that “no means no,” as well as some elements of verbal and physical violence.

Grade 3 – same-sex relationships, which Kathleen Wynne, the first openly gay premier, said would help kids with two moms or two dads feel their families are just like everyone else’s.

“It’s not about explicit information except that it needs to be about kids feeling safe, feeling protected, feeling like they belong,” Wynne said.

One change in the new curriculum will be lessons about puberty will move from Grade 5 to Grade 4.

Grade 6 – masturbation and “gender expression,”

Grades 7 and 8 – discuss contraception, anal and oral sex, preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

She also said Roman Catholic educators were consulted and must follow the curriculum in private schools as well as the public system.

The Progressive Conservatives complained the government did not consult enough parents before introducing the revised sex-ed curriculum.

Chris Markham, executive director of Ontario Physical and Health Education Association, called the curriculum update long overdue and cautioned critics about overreacting.

“I think the Opposition and everyone in the public and the media especially need to understand the content of the curriculum before we start forming opinions, before we start fearmongering and putting out statements that are completely incorrect,” he said.

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