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A demonstrator holds up a sign in front of Queen's Park to protest against Ontario's new sex education curriculum on Feb. 24, 2015. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)
A demonstrator holds up a sign in front of Queen's Park to protest against Ontario's new sex education curriculum on Feb. 24, 2015. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Parent group to put kids on strike to protest Ontario sex-ed Add to ...

Some parents are planning to pull their kids out of school for a week in May to protest against the province’s new sex-education curriculum.

A Facebook group called “Parents & Students on strike: one week no school,” has been sharing flyers online inviting people in Ontario to help stop implementation of the curriculum. Students from elementary to high school are invited to strike against the program as well May 4 to 11.

The new curriculum tackles such issues as masturbation, same-sex relationships, online safety and the perils of sexting, as well as affirmative consent.

Omar Kasmieh, 35, one of the organizers of the strike, said some parents feel some of the subject matter does not reflect their culture or will be taught too early.

“There are a lot of parents coming from different backgrounds that don’t feel this is consistent with their beliefs,” he said. “There’s material that’s considered age inappropriate. ... Canada is a multicultural society and they need to honour that.

“The hope is to for the ministry to realize that there are a significant number of parents who are not happy [with the curriculum].”

More than 4,500 people have liked the Facebook group’s page. Pictures of the flyers have accumulated about 1,800 likes and have been shared almost 2,500 times.

Mr. Kasmieh is a physician in Syria and is planning to get his medical license in Canada. This year, he will graduate from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. He said he believes the number of people who are unhappy is higher than the number who have liked the Facebook page because some don’t have access to social media.

He said parents who take their children out of school should instruct them at home so they don’t fall behind.

“We want kids to be educated in the public system, and pulling kids out of school for homeschooling isn’t a good option for parents. We trust our school system and know it’s the best environment for our kids, but parents are also educators and there should be more open dialogue,” Mr. Kasmieh said.

Some parents have said they don’t feel that the government included them in the conversation on how their children should be taught on the sensitive issue and that the program should not be implemented in September.

Mr. Kasmieh said the ministry should have prepared a briefing to the public on the new curriculum and released a draft.

A letter has been posted on the Parents & Students on strike Facebook page for parents’ use to inform schools before May 4 that their child will be absent for of the strike.

“We believe that the new Health and Physical Education curriculum contains information that we consider age-inappropriate and do not align with the principles and beliefs of our family,” the letter says. “As a family, we adhere to a set of values based on our beliefs and culture. We believe that it is our responsibility to teach these values to our children and have the greatest authority over how and when such sensitive topics are being introduced to our children.”

Tammy Foster, a single mother of three from Port Hope, said she plans to take her kids out of school on May 4. She recently asked to be notified when sex-education classes are scheduled so she can decide whether she wants them to be part of the class.

“The sex curriculum that I read is completely age inappropriate, and it’s far too heavy for children at the age and maturity level that they’re in,” she said.

She has told her children that if they feel uncomfortable in a class, they can leave.

Education Minister Liz Sandals said the government remains committed to the curriculum.

“We believe parents play an integral role in their children’s education,” she said in an e-mailed statement. “It is in fact based on the feedback we received from parents that we created parent resource guides to help them understand when and what their children will be learning in classes under the revised curriculum.”

Ryan Reyes, a communications representative for the Peel District School Board, said children who are pulled out of class for the protest will be marked as absent and be responsible for the work they missed.

“In the event of the strike against the curriculum, Peel schools and classes will continue as usual. It’s not something common, but parents can choose to keep their children at home,” he said.

“Parents need to be educated on what their kids are learning because we’re the ones who will take the consequences at home,” said the Mississauga resident. “If you teach my kids at school, when he comes home I have to deal with him for the rest of the day.”

Ghada Melek, a senior manager at Deloitte and a representative of Well Informed Parent, a group that has helped organize protests, said parents who don’t have the means of taking their kids out of school for the whole week can can strike for just one day.

The Well Informed Parent includes educators, lawyers and medical professionals who went through the program and identified areas of concern, Ms. Melek said during an April 14 protest at Queen’s Park.

A proposed curriculum created by the group was given to Premier Kathleen Wynne on an ethnic media show called Lama TV. The program is scheduled to air on Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Rogers TV and Sunday on OMNI 2 at 3 p.m.

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