Sorry, no sex-ed, please — we’re Canadians: Cohn

More balanced assessment than Heather Mallick’s (Sex-ed compromise is short-sighted: Accommodating body-shaming parents is a betrayal of Canadian multiculturalism):

The most maddening and exasperating aspect of last year’s protests was the attempt by a minority of people — motivated by religion, culture or ideology — to impose their views on the vast majority of parents who support modern sex education for their children. The protesters argued, absurdly and selfishly, that if they disliked the sex-ed curriculum, everyone else’s children should also be deprived of that education.

It was an utterly anti-democratic example of the intolerance (and tyranny) of the minority imposing its unsupported views on everyone else — aided by some opposition Progressive Conservative MPPs and abetted by their current leader, Patrick Brown. What made their anti-sex-ed campaign even more objectionable was that their protests were so pointless — for the simple reason that anyone with a religious objection could easily opt out, taking their child out of class.

Don’t like it, don’t take it. But don’t take away my child’s right to a modern education.

Despite that opt-out option, hundreds of parents escalated their protests by withdrawing their children from all classes last spring (not just sex-ed instruction). Many of them also delayed enrolment in the public school system last September to ratchet up the pressure.

Against that backdrop of disruptive protests, Thorncliffe Park principal Jeff Crane undertook extensive consultations. He proposed an alternative class for those first graders whose parents refused to let them see or hear any explicit references to their anatomy — exposing them, at least, to the rest of the health and physical education curriculum.

Did he go too far in acquiescing to unreasonable demands?

In sex-ed, as in sex itself, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Compromise can be a good thing if it minimizes the harm that might come from depriving first graders of any sex-ed at all should their parents persist with boycotts.

The religious objectors had the right, under our existing system, to deprive their children of essential learning. Now, these students will at least benefit from the rest of the curriculum, notwithstanding their parents’ obstinacy.

That’s better than the alternative of an outright boycott. The key point is that all other students, in this school and across the province, will still get unexpurgated sex-ed classes that don’t dilute the overall curriculum.

A child’s interests should always come first. In this case, a principled principal at Thorncliffe Park has shown us that “reasonable accommodation” with unreasonable parents can produce a rational compromise that serves society.

Source: Sorry, no sex-ed, please — we’re Canadians: Cohn | Toronto Star

Toronto school [Thorncliffe Park] offers sanitized sex-ed amid parent concern

Seems like an accommodation that preserves the essence of the curriculum while addressing parental sensitivities:

An alternative to Ontario’s updated health curriculum is being offered by the Toronto elementary school that found itself at the centre of the sex-education controversy — with Grade 1 students having the option to learn about “private parts” instead of proper names for genitalia.

Thorncliffe Park Principal Jeff Crane said because a number of parents had concerns about their children being taught the words penis and vagina, the school decided to offer a class where teachers covered the key issue of inappropriate touching without being specific about body parts, a move meant to keep kids in school this week and at least learn some of the curriculum.

About 60 per cent of the 300 students in that grade were taught the proper curriculum, the remaining 40 per cent the sanitized version.

“We let parents know ahead of time when the health strands for human development were being taught and, for Grade 1, that there would be one lesson where there would be discussion of body parts … They were told if learning the names of genitalia was a concern, they could write me a letter requesting a religious accommodation,” said Crane, whose school is located in the riding represented by Premier Kathleen Wynne, who championed the updated health curriculum.

Parents were told “the lesson would be exactly the same, but instead of using proper terms like penis and vagina, we would use the term ‘private parts.’ The key learning in that expectation is that this is a part of your body always covered with clothes, nobody touches it and you don’t show anybody. We were able to maintain the integrity of the expectation with a very simple accommodation.”

Last September, Thorncliffe Park school was hit by protests — which saw hundreds of children pulled out of school because of the sex-ed curriculum — where parents set up their own classes in the adjacent park. Even weeks later, when that protest ended, enrolment remained lower than expected. But now, it has rebounded and sits at 1,310 students, down from the projected 1,350.

Crane said he held 20 sessions with more than 650 parents to go over the curriculum and to counter misinformation circulating in the community, which has a large Muslim population.

He said he expects to offer modified lessons to students in Grades 4 and 5, when puberty and menstruation are among the topics covered.

Source: Toronto school offers sanitized sex-ed amid parent concern | Toronto Star

Ontario sex-ed protest ‘unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,’ principal says

On the front-lines, the principal of Thorncliffe Park, who comes across well in his efforts to reach out to parents (about 200 students out of 1,400 are not showing up – 14 percent):

He doesn’t want to be there, but Jeff Crane is on the front lines of a province wide debate over the sex education component of Ontario’s new health and physical education curriculum.

Crane is the principal of Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park Public School.

Crane should have 1,400 students at the elementary school every weekday. Instead, he’s averaging about 1,200 as parents keep kids home over opposition to the sex education component of the curriculum, which was updated this year for the first time since 1998.

Crane, exasperated by the protests, told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Thursday he wants to see the students back in school.

“It’s been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced or ever thought I would experience in a school in Toronto,” Crane told host Matt Galloway. “I’ve spent the past several weeks trying to convince parents to come to school. I never thought we would be doing that in the city of Toronto.”

A group of parents is planning a one-day protest today that if successful, would keep more kids away from classes.

Crane said since the protests began at the start of the school year, he has been busy meeting with small groups of parents, trying to assure them that sex education forms a “tiny component” just “a few lessons” of the overall health and physical education curriculum.

Most of the parents opposed to the curriculum have roots in countries outside Canada. Many feel the curriculum — which teaches students the correct names of sex organs in Grade 1, discusses same-sex relationships by Grade 3, and outlines the perils of sexting in Grade 7 — is  “too much too soon.”

The Wynne government has said the upgraded curriculum is needed to keep children safe in light of changes in technology since the late 1990s, including the advent of social media and the widespread use of smartphones.

But Crane said other parents, a minority among those protesting, have told him their opposition stems from the belief the curriculum is part of a “homosexual indoctrination of Ontario” led by Premier Kathleen Wynne.

“It’s become more about that than about the curriculum,” he said. “These protesters are unreasonable. I can’t reach them.”

As the protest has continued, Crane said parents are holding teaching sessions in groups at a park near the school and in a local community centre using “books from Costco.”

“They aren’t being taught properly,” he said.

Crane said he has had to chase protesters handing out misleading information away from his school. Last month, the words “shame on you” were spray painted on a school building.

So Crane continues his work to “dispel myths” about the curriculum and ensure the school is a welcoming place for all students.

He said his goal is to convince parents that his school “is a place that you can still trust.”

Source: Ontario sex-ed protest ‘unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,’ principal says – Toronto – CBC News