Rainbow Board prepares for fall launch of new sex ed curriculum

MANITOULIN—The Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) is reviewing and preparing for the fall implementation of the newly updated health and physical education curriculum, which was released last week province-wide.

“First, it is important for the community to understand that nothing is happening until September 2015,” RDSB Director of Education Norm Blaseg explained to The Expositor. “There are a number of pieces to put in place before implementation. There are documents from Grades 1-8 and 9-12 and each is over 200 pages in length; it’s a lot to digest. So far schools have yet to get hard copies, but have received e-copies (which are public). We will begin training in April-May, giving staff a few months to become familiar with the material.”

Mr. Blaseg also added that 10 of RDSB’s curriculum consultants would be travelling to Toronto in the near future to learn the material and how to present it. The consultants will then be training the RDSB staff.

When asked if there had been any parent complaints or concerns with the new curriculum (in light of protests outside of Queen’s Park last week), Mr. Blaseg responded that the news had been well received by the community and parents so far.

“We haven’t seen a ton of concerns or enquiries about the updated curriculum,” said Mr. Blaseg. “The government did a huge consultation prior to releasing the curriculum which included contacting over 4,000 school councils.”

RDSB Island trustee Larry Killens also reported that he hadn’t received any negative feedback on the updated curriculum.

“I think the new curriculum is great,” said Mr. Killens. “Anything that improves the overall health and wellbeing of our students is positive in my book and no, I haven’t gotten any concerned calls yet from parents about the curriculum.”

The differences between the 1998 curriculum and the updated 2015 include Grade 1 students not just being able to identify the major parts of the body (1998), but now learning the specific terminology. Grade 1 students will also learn how to understand non-verbal signals such as facial expressions and tone of voice. Grade 3 students will now learn about same-sex relationships. Under the old curriculum students in Grade 5 learned about the body changes that occur as part of puberty, but under the new curriculum this has been moved to Grade 4, but menstruation and spermatogenesis will remain at the Grade 5 level. Grade 4 students and up will also learn more about online bullying and the dangers of posting or sharing sexual photos.

Grade 6 students will learn about masturbation. Grade 7 students will now be taught about informed consent and the communication of consent, while Grade 8 students will need to demonstrate an awareness and acceptance of transsexual, transgender and two-spirited individuals. Grade 7 and 8 students will also learn about contraception, oral and anal sex and sexually transmitted deceases.

Changes in the Grade 9-12 curriculum will include building students’ understanding of mental health, working with others to find solutions to current health and safety issues such as the dangers of texting while driving, the importance of respecting themselves and other people including individuals of all gender identities, sexual orientations, mental and physical abilities and social and cultural backgrounds and the social, emotional and legal implications of posting or forwarding sexually explicit photos (sexting).

For parent guides on the new curriculum or to view the updated curriculum documents visit www.rainbowschools.ca/parents/hpecurriculum.php.