Province unveils revised sex-ed curriculum

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / zurijeta.

The provincial government has taken the wraps off its new sex-ed curriculum for elementary school students across Ontario.

The revised teaching plan for Grades 1 to 8 was released on Wednesday morning. It comes roughly a year after the Tories repealed the previous Liberal government’s modernized sex-ed curriculum, introduced in 2015, and returned to teaching materials from 1998.

Under the updated Elementary Health and Physical Education Curriculum, students will learn about mental health, body image and healthy eating, cyber safety, and consent. The effects and consequences of vaping and cannabis use will also be taught to students.

An addendum to the kindergarten program will see a new focus on concussion prevention and online safety. New partnerships between the province and the School Mental Health Ontario and Ophea — a physical and health education leader — will help to enhance mental health learning and support educators with the implementation of the revised curriculum.

“This modernization will keep kids safe in and outside of the classroom,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement. “Ontario is a leader in critical areas including mental health, cyber safety, and consent, underscoring our commitment to building an education system that prioritizes inclusion, safety, and respect.”

The revised curriculum was developed following months of public consultation and advice from experts, the government noted.

Lessons on gender identity, same-sex relationships, and sexting first introduced under the 2015 curriculum will still be taught under the new document, but will be done in high-grade levels.

School boards will also now be required to develop a policy/procedure to allow parents to exempt their child from the instruction of the sexual health education component of the curriculum. That exception policy will have to be in place by November, the province said in a memorandum posted to the ministry’s website.

The government said professional development services will be available for teachers to “strengthen their knowledge” of the revised curriculum, which will be taught in the second half of the school year.

Online resources for parents looking to introduce specific topics to their kids at home will be available in the 2019-2020 school year.