Ontario Government Releases Sexual Education Curriculum

 

After years of hand wringing and teeth gnashing over the reportedly age-inappropriate health and physical education curriculum in Ontario, the province’s Progressive Conservative government—which rolled back the previous Liberal government’s supposedly salacious program in a fit of moral outrage—has released its own curriculum.

And low and behold, it’s not so different from progressive curriculum that was approved by the Kathleen Wynne government. 

And while that’s a good thing for students, it’s a puzzling thing for the Doug Ford government—a government that spent time and money on a revamp that only includes minor changes to when some sexual orientation and identity content is introduced. 

Today (Aug. 21), the province released the revised elementary Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum. It is now available here, along with information on what children will learn in each grade.

The much-talked about curriculum was released following a lengthy (and some would say redundant) consultation process. The government says the curriculum has been updated to reflect public feedback, research and advice from experts.

The province is introducing an enhanced and inclusive Health and Physical Education curriculum for Grades 1-8 that relates to the everyday experiences of students. It provides them with the skills and knowledge they need to lead safe, healthy, and active lives,” the province said in a news release. 

The curriculum will teach students about a number of timely issues, including:

  • Mental Health, including Social-Emotional Learning Skills
  • Concussions
  • The effects and consequences of vaping and cannabis
  • Cyber safety, including bullying prevention and digital privacy
  • Healthy eating and body image
  • Healthy relationships, including consent

The province also released the 2019 Addendum to The Kindergarten Program, which is focused on concussion prevention and online safety. It will be available for implementation starting in September 2019.

This modernization will keep kids safe in and outside of the classroom,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “Ontario is a leader in critical areas including mental health, cyber safety, and consent, underscoring our commitment to building an education system that prioritizes inclusion, safety, and respect.”

The province is also partnering with School Mental Health Ontario (SMHO) to enhance learning about mental health in the curriculum. 

So, how does the curriculum break down by grade?

Grade 1: Healthy eating, personal safety and injury prevention, discerning between caring and exploitative behaviour, bullying, consent, substance abuse and addiction, proper names of body parts (including genitalia), using positive language when describing bodies, the five senses and their functions, good hygiene habits, mental health and more. 

Grade 2: Healthy eating, food and snack choices, safety at home, outdoors and online, food allergies, relating to family and caregivers, medication, stages of development, oral health, responses and feelings and more. 

Grade 3: Healthy eating, local and cultural food choices, concussion awareness, real and fictional violence, impact of use of legal and illegal substances, healthy relationships, caring behaviours, bullying, consent, physical, social and emotional development, building a healthy body image, visible and invisible differences, respect, mental health literacy, stress and more. 

Grade 4: Healthier eating in various settings, safe use of technology (online safety), bullying, abuse and non-consensual behaviour, decision making and assessing risk, tobacco and vaping, puberty, hygiene, stress management and more.

Grade 5: Media influence on food choices, nutrition facts and food labels, injury prevention, responding to emergencies, bullying, violence, consent, online safety, responding to threats to personal safety, the harmful nature of homophobic comments, addictions and related behaviours, short- and long-term effects of alcohol use, human development and sexual health, the reproductive system, menstruation, sperm production, personal identity, sexual orientation, puberty, stress, communicating with family, mental health, helping others, stigma awareness and more. 

Grade 6: Healthy eating, benefits of inclusion, respect and acceptance, conflict management in person and online, care for self and others, effects of cannabis and other drugs, alcohol, tobacco, vaping, impacts of viewing sexually explicit media, understanding changes that occur during adolescence, healthier relationships, consent, challenging various stereotypes (for example, based on sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, culture, mental health and abilities), mental health and more. 

Grade 7: Eating patterns and health problems, benefits and dangers of technology, sexting, bullying and harassment, bullying based on sexual orientation (homophobia), problematic substance use, online addiction, impact of pornography, delaying sexual activity, consent, communication, preventing sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) and pregnancy (exploring abstinence, contraception and condom use), sexual health and decision making, relationship changes at puberty, mental health, mental illness and more. 

Grade 8: Healthy eating, concussions (signs and symptoms), reducing the risk of injuries and death, assessing situations for potential danger in person and online, the impact of violence and bullying, warning signs and consequences of problematic substance use, decisions about sexual activity and sources of support related to sexual health, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, knowing and appreciating oneself, consent, sexual health and safety (including abstinence, contraception, condom use and other forms of protection to prevent sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) and becoming a parent before you’re ready), healthy relationships and considerations related to intimacy, routines and habits for mental health, Societal views, impact of stigma and more. 

The province says it’s investing $2.25 million to support school boards with the implementation of the revised elementary curriculum, and the 2019 Addendum to The Kindergarten Program along with other curricula.

The HPE curriculum is taught in the second half of the school year, and educators will have access to professional development services to strengthen their knowledge of the subject matter.

The province says the Ministry of Education will release online resources for parents who may want to introduce specific topics at home. These resources will be available in the 2019-20 school year. 

Parents can request that their children be exempt from learning about certain HPE subjects.

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