Rainbow School Board officials say reverting back to 1998 sex-ed curriculum not feasible

RAINBOW DISTRICT—The director of education for the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) says that reverting back to the 1998 sex education curriculum in its schools is not feasible for the board. This opinion is in contrast to the province reverting to a 20-year-old version of the province’s sex and physical education curriculum. Norm Blaseg’s opinion is shared by local Manitoulin trustee on the RDSB, Larry Killens. Meanwhile, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario ETFO) has strongly denounced the Ontario government’s decision to repeal the updated 2015 sexual health curriculum and will advise its members to continue to exercise their professional judgment when it comes to teaching all sections of the current curriculum.

“I’m relying on what our director of education (Norm Blaseg) said on this issue,” stated Larry Killens, RDSB trustee. “I’m in favour of his view that this curriculum needs to stay status quo. We have many new teachers that are not familiar with the (former) curriculum.” 

In a story published in the August 5, 2018 edition of Northern Life, Mr. Blaseg was quoted as saying that the RDSB does not have that 20-year-old version of the provincial sex-ed curriculum readily available. He said the board has moved on since then, and that unless the ministry directs the board and provides it with a new curriculum and the professional development that goes with it, it won’t take place.

Mr. Blaseg was quoted by the Toronto Star on August 1 as saying that for teachers who were hired in the last three years, there is no context for the (old) curriculum. Unless the province addresses all those challenges he said he doesn’t see the RDSB moving away from the current curriculum. 

Last month, the new PC government unveiled its plans to revert to the sex-ed curriculum taught between 1998 and 2015, when a curriculum developed under the previous Liberals was brought in.

Deputy Premier Christine Elliott recently said teachers can speak in private with students about issues not covered in the old curriculum. This has been widely criticized as inappropriate.

“Hopefully, that was taken out of context,” Mr. Blaseg told the Toronto Star. “I would not put a teacher in that situation. There’s a whole College of Teachers issue with regards to having these conversations, I’m sure, and I’m sure the local federations are not happy. Quite frankly, I don’t blame them.”

The Recorder was unable to reach Mr. Blaseg for comment prior to this week’s press deadline.

“The government’s decision to revert to the 1998 Health and Physical Education Curriculum while initiating further consultation is irresponsible, discriminatory and jeopardizes the safety of the students that we teach,” said Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario President Sam Hammond at the federation’s annual meeting August 13. “Teachers will not be muzzled by a government whose political agenda takes precedence over the protection and education of their students.” 

Since the government’s plan was announced, an unprecedented coalition made up of educators, parents, community groups, the medical profession, faith groups and legal advocacy groups has called on the government to continue to uphold the 2015 curriculum.

“We need to prepare students for the world of 2018, not the world of 1998. The government’s actions are in direct conflict with teachers’ fundamental responsibilities and obligations towards their students including the duty to ensure their safety and their fundamental human rights. These obligations are enshrined within the Education Act and the Standards of Practice of the Ontario College of Teachers and cannot be taken lightly,” said Mr. Hammond. 

“The government’s actions are also in direct conflict with the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They infringe upon the freedom of speech of teachers to provide proper education to their students,” added Mr. Hammond.

“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 behavior,” Mr. Hammond said.
The Federation has also instructed its legal counsel to intervene in any proceeding before the Human Rights Tribunal and provide full support and assistance to the applicant.

“We acknowledge the strong response of Ontario school board concerning this issue and appeal to them to join us in this action by supporting teachers who demonstrate care and concern for their students. Our students deserve as much,” added Mr. Hammond in the release.