Ontario sex ed protest

Ontario teachers refuse to use 1998 version of sex-ed curriculum

The union representing Ontario's elementary school teachers is vehemently rejecting a decision to replace their modern sex-ed curriculum with lesson plans from 20 years ago — lesson plans written before smartphones, social media or even same-sex marriage existed in Canada.

"We can't return to the dark ages. We have to prepare students for 2018 and not 1998," said Sam Hammond, president of The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, at an EFTO meeting in Toronto Monday night.

"Teachers will not be muzzled by a government whose political agenda takes precedence over the protection and education of their students."

Hammond was speaking in response to a controversial sex-ed policy change announced last month by Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative government.

The PC party, which only took office at the end of June, said on July 11 that a modernized sex-ed curriculum from 2015 would be repealed across the province and replaced with a much, much older version.

"The sex-ed component is going to be reverted back to the manner in which it was prior to the changes that were introduced by the Liberal government," said Education Minister Lisa Thompson at the time.

"Uh, seriously?" said everybody else.

Now, as the school year approaches, teachers are straight up refusing to comply with what the government wants — and their union is ready to fight for the right to teach kids about sexual consent, gender identity, the proper names for their own body parts and anything else missing from 1998's sex-ed curriculum.

"The ETFO will vigorously defend members who continue to follow the 2015 health curriculum and will pursue all options to respond appropriately to the government’s reckless behaviour," said Hammond on Monday.

Calling the government's decision "irresponsible" and "discriminatory," Hammond stated that using 20-year-old sex-ed lessons in the classroom "jeopardizes the safety of the students we teach."

The union says that it will use the full extent of its legal power to defend any educators who are penalized for teaching lessons from the modernized 2015 sex-ed curriculum.

This includes complaints made against teachers by parents, school boards or the provincial government itself. And the EFTO may very well win any legal battle arising from such a conflict.

"The government's actions are in direct conflict with the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," said Hammond.

"They infringe upon the freedom of speech of teachers to provide proper education to their students."

A rally hosted by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the EFTO, which represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers in Ontario, is planned for Queen's Park at 12: 30 p.m. today.

NDP and official opposition leader Andrea Horwath is expected to speak at the Queen's Park rally around 1 p.m. after visiting EFTO members at their ongoing meeting in downtown Toronto.

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