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Education minister could meet with parents concerned about sex-ed curriculum

04/28/2015 12:44 EDT | Updated 08/02/2015 01:59 EDT
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Tuesday that she is willing to send her education minister to meet with Peel parents and school board members concerned about the new sexual-education curriculum being introduced in the fall. 

Answering reporter questions during the Civic Action summit in Toronto, Wynne said Education Minister Liz Sandals could be dispatched to discuss ongoing issues that a significant number of parents in the Peel public school board have expressed with the new curriculum.

Hundreds of parents from within that board have threatened to pull their kids out of school for a week from May 4 to 11 in protest of the curriculum. They have set up a Facebook page called "Parents and students on strike: one week no school" to organize their movement and encourage other parents to join them. 

- LISTEN | McDougald on Metro Morning 

The new curriculum aims to teach children about a number of issues currently missing in sexual education in the province, including same-sex marriage, consent and sexting. It is the first update to the material in 17 years. It will be implemented in September. 

Earlier this month, thousands gathered outside Queen's Park in Toronto to protest the changes. 

Peel District School Board Chair Janet McDougald told CBC Radio's Metro Morning Tuesday that trustees, at the request of "hundreds of parents," will send a letter to the education ministry asking for clarification on the details of curriculum — despite the entire curriculum being online.

"They think the information is sensitive, it's graphic and they are worried about the age appropriateness of the material," McDougald said, adding that parents feel disenfranchised from the entire process. 

Opt-out option already available

A significant proportion of those expressing concern are Muslim, according to McDougald.

Parents in Ontario, however, already have the right to opt out of any parts of the curriculum they are uncomfortable with and Peel frequently accommodates those requests. 

But the education ministry should lay out what will happen if hundreds of students opt out all at once, said McDougald, citing concerns about student safety if they are not in the classroom. 

"If there are two or three hundred children who decide to opt out, then we really need the ministry to clarify this process for us," she said.

Similarly, parents are asking that the ministry send them letters to notify them exactly when and what material will be taught on any given day. 

The Peel public board will meet tonight and send the letter in the coming days. It's not clear if or when Sandals might sit down with the board and concerned parents. 

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