Parents can remove their kids from sex-ed classes for religious reasons, but any requests for students to opt-out of learning about gay families or diverse gender identities won’t be tolerated, says the director of Ontario’s second largest school board — one that expects to be hard hit by protests over the new health curriculum.
The same day as anti-sex-ed rallies were planned outside Liberal MPP offices across the province, Tony Pontes was to tell teachers and superintendents about the Peel board’s tough stand, saying if parents have a problem with such strong support for equity and inclusion, the public system may not be right for them.
“Let’s be clear: Some in our community may not like this,” he says in a speech to be given Wednesday morning, a copy of which was provided to the Star.
After noting the 905-area board is opening its first gender-neutral washroom at a high school as well as introducing a new gender identity guideline for educators, some parents “may choose to switch school systems … if so, that is a price we must be willing to pay.
“We cannot — we will not — by action or inaction endorse discrimination,” said Pontes, who cited Ontario’s Human Rights Code as applying to people of all sexual orientation and gender identity. “Supported by legal opinion, bolstered by our core values, I would no more say yes to someone wanting a child excluded because of a discussion about LGBTQ than I would a discussion about race or gender.”
He said that while some parents do have “genuine concerns” that the board will work to address, critics of the updated sex-ed curriculum have used it to “raise fear, generate untruths and build constituencies of protest based on false information. I find that unconscionable.”
Since the new curriculum was announced, opponents, made up mainly of different faith groups, have tried to derail it, labelling it age-inappropriate, radical and even immoral — arguing parents should be the ones providing such information, and at a time when they feel their children are ready.