Students protest curriculum changes

By Darren Lum

Published Sept. 25 2018

High school students stood in front of the school holding signs with the phrases “Protect Our Education” and “Save sex education” to protest the provincial government’s changes to the sex education and the Indigenous curriculum on Friday Sept. 21 at the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School.

The passionate group of HHSS students from Grade 9 to 12 spent more than an hour missing their classes to be part of this province-wide protest  called the March for Our Education organized by students alongside advocacy groups.

Grade 11 HHSS student Malia said the curriculum helps students better understand the world.
“Most of the discrimination comes from misunderstanding and people need to learn about consent. People need to learn about LGBTQ … and native studies” she said.

Malia wished more could have joined her in front of the school but believed in demonstrating no matter what the consequence. She admits with such a small group they didn’t register as much as other schools had.

The protest included students teachers and staff at more than 100 schools in Ontario. There was a projection of some 40000 people taking part in the afternoon protest.

CTV reported the protest was in response to the provincial government’s decision to repeal the 2015 rewrite of the sex-ed section of the Health and Physical Education Curriculum. In its place they reinstated the 1998 version while a new program is prepared. The 2015 sex-ed curriculum includes same-sex marriage gender identity consent and sex in a social media age.

The provincial government instated a phone line for the public to report any teachers who teach the 2015 sex-ed curriculum.

Changes also included the cancellation of a rewrite of the Indigenous studies curriculum recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation report.

Grade 12 student Joey said the curriculum plays an important role in educating people about how to protect themselves.

“Learning about consent at a young age is so important because it prevents rape … learning about STIs and all that stuff. So many people don’t know. They just don’t know about things…” she said. “Honestly it doesn’t make sense why you wouldn’t teach that kind of thing. It’s not harmful. It does the complete opposite of what they want to do. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

She adds providing an understanding about the LGBTQ community gender identity and sexual orientation can only help everyone.

“I want to erase the stigma about being gay or transgender or anything like that. And in a small town especially like this there is a lot of stigma about that. People get called [homophobic slurs] all the time around here. It’s not OK. I feel a lack of education is part of that” she said.

Despite the criticism directed at people interested in joining this protest on social media this group of students wasn’t dissuaded from showing how they felt by protesting.

Joey was steadfast in her belief in the cause no matter what the consequences she may face for walking out.

Grade 9 student Ryanne was bothered by insulting comments on social media about gay people.
“That’s what I really didn’t like. Especially because we have friends and we know people … it doesn’t seem OK at all” she said.

Joey hopes this protest will draw the attention of politicians.

“When we get together we can have a really big voice and that we care a lot  more than they might think we do and I’m hoping they make some changes to the curriculum” she said.

As reported by the CBC the province has planned public consultations on a new sex-ed curriculum this week and people are encouraged to participate.