Ontario students falling through the cracks, TDSB enrolment plunges over sex-ed curriculum

Starting to get the numbers of those who have dropped out from the public school system (headline ‘plunges’ is an over statement). Remains to be seen whether this is a one-time shift (my guess) or longer-term trend.

Also needs to be seen in context of Thorncliffe Park, whose principle engaged with parents with considerable success, with most students returning (see Toronto school [Thorncliffe Park] offers sanitized sex-ed amid parent concern, where enrolment dropped by 40 out of a projected 1,350 – about 3 percent):

Last April, thousands of parents were marching at Queen’s Park in protest against the curriculum. But it took months for public schools to take stock of the ensuing enrolment drop.

… The Ministry of Education said parents have the right to change their children’s schooling if they can’t abide by the update to the old sex-ed curriculum, which it called “dangerously out of date.”

“We respect that many parents choose to home-school their children or enroll them in private schools,” the ministry said in a statement.

Just as it’s unclear how those children are now being taught, it’s unclear how many in total have dropped out of the public system because of sex ed.

In the fall, the idea that the Toronto District School Board had lost students over sex ed was met with skepticism, with some suggesting the board was using that as an excuse for its job cuts. The TDSB’s enrolment has consistently declined for years.

But what happened this year was unusual. The TDSB, with a quarter-million students, normally uses demographic and immigration data to project enrolment within 1-per-cent accuracy, meaning its staff are off by no more than 1,700 students in the elementary grades, spokesman Ryan Bird said.

For the current school year, staff projected an increase of about 300 elementary students, in keeping with recent patterns. Instead, the TDSB elementary head count went down by 2,083, or 2,373 fewer than projected. Staff had been off by an unheard-of 1.4 per cent.

At the TDSB, the five schools that lost the most students were in neighbourhoods at the centre of the sex-ed protests: Thorncliffe Park, Manahil’s old school, lost two full Grade 1 classes.

It’s less clear how much sex ed was to blame for an unprecedented enrolment drop at the Peel District School Board, which covers Toronto’s western suburbs.

Unlike the shrinking TDSB, Peel has grown steadily for years. The fall of 2015 was the first time in many years that the student population declined overall, spokeswoman Carla Pereira said.

The number of elementary students decreased by only 728 from October, 2014. But staff had projected an increase of 900. Like the TDSB, they were off by 1.4 per cent.

Ms. Pereira said the board has since gained about 1,000 students and doesn’t believe sex ed was a significant factor in the dip in numbers. Many South Asian families took fall vacations, she said.

The second-highest drop in the Peel system was at James Potter Public School in Brampton, which has many students from the Sikh community, which was vocal in the sex-ed protests.

Last September, two new Sikh private schools opened in Brampton, adding to two existing ones. The parents who flocked to them were likely swayed at least in part by qualms over the curriculum, said one man who volunteers at newly opened Gobind Sarvar School.

“It’s hard to put a number on it,” said the man, who didn’t want to be identified. “I think [sex ed] was probably something that tilted it.”

Source: Ontario students falling through the cracks, TDSB enrolment plunges over sex-ed curriculum – The Globe and Mail

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

Sex ed protest leaves 1 Toronto school almost empty

If memory serves me correctly (School prayer debate creates unlikely allies), this is the same school that allowed the Muslim Friday prayers at the school to combat Friday afternoon absenteeism among Muslim students, with gender-separate seating (girls at the back, not at the side):

A public elementary school in Toronto was left nearly empty on Monday as parents protested against the province’s new sex ed curriculum.

Between 200 and 300 protesters voiced their concerns with changes to the current sex ed system outside Thorncliffe Park Public School, said the CBC’s James Murray. Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird said 1,220 of the 1,350 Grade 1 to Grade 5 students are not currently in class.

Meanwhile, across the city, the Toronto District School Board recorded 34,762 elementary school absences.

That’s an increase of 144 percent compared to last Monday when there were 14,191 absences reported.

The board did not provide a breakdown of reasons for the absences, such as illness, etc.

In total, there are approximately 171,800 active elementary students at the TDSB.

A Thorncliffe parents’ group is currently running a Facebook campaign called Parents & Students on strike: one week no school is encouraging parents who oppose the 2015 sex ed curriculum to keep their kids at home.

“We are sending them to have their science, math and English and whatever … we are not sending them for sex education,” said parent Fatima Haqdad.

Sex ed protest leaves 1 Toronto school almost empty – Toronto – CBC News.

Hockey used to ‘Canadianize’ new immigrants and help grow the sport

Good initiative:

There’s an appetite for hockey within this new, largely untapped, market according to Dave Croutch, Director of the North York Hockey League.

He says introducing the sport to new immigrants is an effective way to build community and integrate them more seamlessly into North American life.

“If Billy and Johnny are talking about hockey in the playground at school, [some students] previously were not part of that conversation. But now that they’re playing the game, they are actually part of the conversation,” said Croutch.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment donated hockey equipment to the effort. They acknowledged introducing hockey to new immigrants is a good way to grow the sport and add diversity to the game.

“You look at Nazem Kadri for the Toronto Maple Leafs and his ethnicity. It’s a great thing for the diversity of Toronto,” says Nilesh Chauhan, who’s with the MLSE Foundation.

“The most I enjoy about hockey is that now if we get our own rink, we can play as much as we want. Because before it cost a lot of money and we didn’t get enough ice time,” says Ayaan, a young boy who was donning a Maple Leafs jersey during the fundraiser.

Hockey used to ‘Canadianize’ new immigrants and help grow the sport – Toronto | Globalnews.ca.