The head of Canada’s largest school board says it continues to support teachers through the tumultuous changes to Ontario’s education system and wants to assure educators that many important topics are still addressed in the interim sex-education curriculum issued this week by the Progressive Conservative government.
In a letter to teachers Friday, John Malloy, director of education at the Toronto District School Board, said district staff are reviewing curriculum documents and pulling together resources “as we attempt to take some of the ‘guess work’ out of determining what can be taught and when.
“Despite some challenging developments over recent days, I want you to know that we trust you and we believe you are doing great things for our students. I want to assure you that we will be providing support for you through the implementation of the curriculum changes,” Mr. Malloy wrote.
His letter came two days after Premier Doug Ford’s government directed school boards to use a “revised, interim curriculum,” based on a 1998 document on sexual health, in elementary classrooms this coming school year. The curriculum it is replacing, implemented in 2015 by the previous Liberal government, was more detailed and included issues such as consent and the dangers of sexting.
Education Minister Lisa Thompson has been unavailable for comment on the changes, which will include a broad public consultation on rewriting the sex-ed curriculum as well as discussions about math scores, standardized testing and banning cellphones in schools.
Mr. Ford also announced a platform critics have called a “snitch line” for parents to report concerns about what is being taught in classrooms anonymously. The information would be shared with the Ontario College of Teachers, which licenses, regulates and disciplines educators.
Mr. Malloy said in an interview Friday that he was concerned about the complaint system. He said teachers will be expected to deliver the curriculum provided by the Ministry of Education. The wording in the interim document may differ from the 2015 curriculum, but some important topics are generally covered as “prompts” – references that support teachers in providing fact-based answers to students – as opposed to expectations, he said.
“I am concerned about any strategy that takes relationships out of the school,” Mr. Malloy said. “When a parent has a problem, we really wish for them to go to the teacher and principal first. And if the issue is still not resolved, to involve the superintendent.”
The sex-ed component of the health and physical education curriculum is usually discussed in classrooms in the spring.
On Thursday, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association sought an injunction to keep the previous sex-ed curriculum until a new one can be developed through public consultation.