Ontario bishops eager to consult on sex-ed curriculum

  • April 30, 2010
sex educationTORONTO - Ontario's Catholic bishops, teachers and trustees say they're eager to co-operate with the education ministry as it revamps the province's controversial sex education curriculum.

A joint statement issued April 28 by the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, said the three groups look forward to participating in a review that was announced earlier in the week by Premier Dalton McGuinty. A new province-wide sex-ed curriculum that was to launch in September was sent back to the drawing board by McGuinty following howls of protest from several parent groups.

“The new curriculum is an important document, and we are confident any concerns about it can be addressed,” said the statement from Archbishop Thomas Collins, president of the Assembly of Bishops of Ontario, Paula Peroni, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association and James Ryan, head of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association.

The review is “an opportunity to bring clarity to an important and sensitive subject” and dispel the “confusion” and misunderstanding surrounding the debate on the new sex ed curriculum, the statement said.

“We want to be clear: Ontario’s Catholic schools teach the provincial curriculum, from a Catholic perspective and have done so successfully. For 170 years we have taught the provincial curriculum while adhering to Catholic principles.”

Ontario Catholic schools have taught a family life and sex education program for more than 30 years, the statement added.

Lou Piovesan, general secretary of the Assembly of Bishops of Ontario, told The Catholic Register that the assembly looks forward to clarifying the confusion about what's being taught at Catholic schools and providing input in talks between the government and its education partners.

In public statements, McGuinty has insisted there will be a single curriculum for all schools, including Catholic schools. The position of Ontario's Catholic schools is that the teachings of the Church supersede government directives on matters concerning faith and morality.

Asked whether the original curriculum changes were intended to challenge Catholic schools' denominational rights,  Education Minister Leona Dombrowski told The Register she was “surprised” about this allegation because Catholic school boards have had the Fully Alive program in place for many years to provide sexual education from a Catholic perspective.

“I think it's important to remind people that there has been sexual education in Catholic schools,” Dombrowsky added.

Fully Alive is a family life education program for Grades 1 to 8 that teaches human life, sexuality, marriage and family from a Catholic perspective.

In anticipation of curriculum revisions for the next school year, the Institute for Catholic Education, which oversees curriculum issues for Catholic schools, had been working with the education ministry to modify the proposed changes to make them compatible with the Fully Alive program.

According to the minister, the government will be “listening carefully to what parents have to say about age-appropriate language” as it modifies the current, 12-year-old curriculum. She noted that 90 per cent of the new health and physical education curriculum is not related to sexual education and will likely go ahead.

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