Parents rally outside Queen’s Park following the release of Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum. Some parents plan to take their kids out of school May 4-8 in protest of the curriculum. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Sex-ed opponents call for student strike

  • April 22, 2015

TORONTO - A parent group is calling for children to be pulled out of school during Education Week in Ontario to protest the province’s new sexual-education curriculum.

Withdrawing children from the classroom May 4-8 might force the Liberal government to address concerns about the controversial curriculum that will be implemented in September, said Omar Kasmieh, co-organizer of Parents and Students on Strike.

“We want the Ministry (of Education) to know that this is not a small issue. This is a major concern,” Kasmieh said. “It is really important for the ministry to look at these concerns.”

The parent group, a coalition of Catholics and non-Catholics, believes the Liberals are ignoring concerns being expressed across the province and that the revised curriculum disregards the cultural diversity of schools. Kasmieh, a non-Catholic, agreed to speak for the group because other parents fear going public might cause difficult schoolyard situations for their children.

“The curriculum really overlooks the fact that Canada is a multicultural society,” Kasmieh said. “There are a lot of sensitivities (in the new curriculum) and each culture really addresses these topics from different perspectives.

“We think that implementing things in the education curriculum that blends everyone and tries to make everyone think the same way and act the same way is not the way to go. This is what is really concerning all the parents.”

The revised curriculum will introduce elementary school children to concepts such as oral and anal sex, homosexuality and non-traditional families at an earlier age than they are currently being taught. Kasmieh agrees these topics are relevant in modern society but objects to teaching them to young children and to the amount of classroom time that will be allocated to them.

“A lot of parents have issues around the age when this information is being introduced,” he said. “(Also) we feel that the school really doesn’t have the time and the assets to address these issues at an individual basis. In schools, you’ve got 20, 25 kids in each class and I really don’t think teachers will have enough time to address these issues.”

Kasmieh, a parent of two young girls, founded the group with three other parents while discussing ways to respond to the new curriculum. Their cause is promoted on a Facebook page called Parents and Students on Strike, with the slogan “One Week, No School.”  At The Register’s press time, the page had more than 4,400 “likes.”

Parents are asked to download a letter to be submitted to their child’s teacher, principal and trustee that explains why the child is being taken out of school for one week. It says the sex-ed curriculum “contains information that we consider age inappropriate” and that it does not align “with the principles and beliefs of our family.”

The letter also says that parents “expect the schools to support parents’ choice and communicate our concerns to the school board and the ministry.”

Representatives from the Toronto and Dufferin-Peel Catholic boards said they were unaware of any plans to withdraw students from classrooms.

“We have not received any information that this is being contemplated by our parents at our board,” said Toronto Catholic’s John Yan in an e-mail.

Campaign Life Coalition is showing its support by promoting the group’s actions despite having no role in the organization.

“If enough parents participate this will be an effective way to send a strong message,” said Jack Fonseca, a Campaign Life spokesperson.

Kasmieh said pulling kids from classrooms is a last resort and that their real hope is to motivate the government to reopen the consultation processes.

“Let’s be clear here, the goal is really not to pull the kids out of school,” he said. “It is really worth it for the ministry to really stop and consider this.”

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