Controversial (For No Reason) Sex-Ed is Here in Mississauga

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After agonizing months of hysterical handwringing and obnoxious placard waving, the over-debated sexual education curriculum is finally coming to Peel students.

Pleasantly enough, the raucous doomsday rhetoric surrounding the updated curriculum has, thankfully, died down. According to a recent article in the Mississauga News, both the Peel District School Board and the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board have said that most parents have acted reasonably and refrained from pulling their children out of school to protest the supposedly lascivious and explicit curriculum.

"I'm not hearing of a significant number of accommodations or exemptions," public board spokesperson Brian Woodland told The News. The newspaper also reports that Shelagh Peterson, the Catholic board's coordinator of religious education and faith formation, is similarly unaware of an increase in exemptions.

The news -- though heartening -- isn't terribly unexpected. These sorts of tempest-in-a-teapot fits of righteousness tend to calm down over time. After months of consultations and media frenzies and Facebook posts, it's hard to sustain the rage.

And in some cases, clearer heads prevail when factual, respectful discussion takes places and addresses false or exaggerated claims about what children will learn.

That said, schools are still being diligent and mindful of prickly spiritual issues. The News reports that schools must keep parents in the loop by sending out letters outlining what their kids will be learning. If parents take issue with the subject matter on religious grounds, they can request an exemption from the lessons. That said, students cannot opt out of talks on inclusive topics such as same-sex parenting. 

A fair and reasonable caveat, to be sure.

As to what initially prompted some nervous parents to fly into apoplectic rage over the "sexualization" of children (or some such nonsense), the updated curriculum offered a more detailed and comprehensive approach to sex and sexuality. It was created to address timely issues of sexual orientation and consent, among other things.

As for how it breaks down, the subject matter changes based on the student's ages. Grade 1 students are taught the proper names for body parts (including genitalia), grade 2's are taught the stages of development, grade 3's are taught about healthy relationships, grade 4's are taught about puberty and hygiene, grade 5's learn about the reproductive system (and menstruation and sperm production) and the thorny emotional issues attached to puberty. Grade 6 students learn about puberty and healthy relationships and "development of understanding of self."

The more complex lessons are reserved for grade 7 and 8 students who learn about delaying sexual activity, STIs, pregnancy prevention, sexual health and relationships. Only grade 8 students learn about gender identity and sexual orientation and decisions about sexual activity. Once high school beings, students learn about consent, misconceptions relating to sexuality and more.

You can actually read everything here.

Despite the initial terror, it seems the lion's share of parents have come around. That might have something to do the consultation process that took place between public board parents and community groups.

That said, Woodland told The News that two schools -- which were not identified -- have had a "significant" amount of exemption and accommodation requests. He told The News that the schools have been given additional support "to work on those face-to-face conversations."

He also told The News that the discussions brought 100 requests down to four.

All in all, it looks like talking -- and time -- is assuaging overwrought fears.

That's a good thing.

 

 

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