Some Ontario parents are putting their kids "on strike" on Monday, keeping them home from school to protest against sex education material in Ontario's 2015 health and physical education curriculum.
Toronto District School Board spokeswoman Shari Schwartz-Maltz said schools across the city have been notified that parents are planning to keep their kids home over dissatisfaction with the new health curriculum for Grades 1-8.
Many parents, she said, are sending form letters to teachers or principals to explain their children's absences, but others are simply calling schools.
The group Ontario Parents and Students Strike put a notification letter online for parents to send to schools. The group also operates a Facebook page, "Parents & students on strike: one week no school," which has more than 7,500 likes.
The notification letter says the parents object to curriculum material, which it says is "age-inappropriate" and does not "align with the principles and beliefs of our family, and thousands of other families across Ontario."
The new curriculum introduces issues such as sexting and online safety, and deals with masturbation and affirmative consent, among other topics, with different issues discussed at different grade levels.
The group says parents from 32 school boards across Ontario have confirmed they are participating in the protest.
Some parents are planning to keep their kids out of class for the entire week, others just a few days, making it unclear how many children will be missing and for how long.
Ms. Schwartz-Maltz said children who are not in school next week will be marked absent. "Just like if you were sick on a certain day, parents are responsible and children are responsible for the work that they missed," she said.
Claudia Rulli, 38, will keep her five-year-old daughter home from her York Region school for the entire week.
She said parents want discussion of certain "adult-related topics" delayed until high school, and they are upset about the consultation process for the curriculum, which she views as inadequate.
"The parents are angry," Ms. Rulli said. "[Premier Kathleen Wynne] has no idea how infuriated and hurt the parents are. We're not going to stop. This is our message and it will continue."
Ms. Rulli, who also helped organize an April 14 rally against the curriculum, said she would be willing to keep her daughter out of school for even longer if the issues with the curriculum are not addressed.
A group of parents gathered outside a TDSB Ward 21 council meeting on April 27 with placards to protest against the curriculum.
The meeting, held by board chairman Shaun Chen, was meant to be an information session on how teachers are using technology and apps as classroom tools.
But representatives of Parents Alliance of Ontario, a group formed in March to express concerns about the curriculum, also asked questions about sex-ed material. PAO president Christina Liu said the protest was about raising awareness of their concerns at a local level.
"We were told at the trustee level [of the school board] they have a great authority in terms of the implementation of the curriculum, and we want to bring up the awareness in the [Toronto] school board," she said.
Ms. Liu said she will keep her nine-year-old son home from school in protest next week.
TDSB chairman executive assistant Berardo Mascioli said the security officer present to monitor the meeting reported about 20 people protesting outside, but others who provided proof that they lived in Ward 21 or had children in schools there were allowed in. Ms. Liu said the PAO brought about 50 people to protest.