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TORONTO — Thousands of parents across the GTA pulled their children out of school to protest the new provincial sex-ed curriculum.
Many of those parents, with kids in tow, demonstrated at Queen’s Park, outside of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s constituency office on Eglinton Ave. E., and at Thorncliffe Public School in Toronto Monday morning.
Of the nearly 1,350 students at Thorncliffe elementary school, about 1,220 failed to show up, the Toronto District School Board confirmed.
Chanting “We say no” and “Loser, loser, Kathleen loser,” placard-waving protesters urged the province to back down on its new curriculum.
Many of the parents raised concerns that some of the concepts will come too early for young children to understand. Others said the material clashes with their religious beliefs.
Abdul Azeem, the Thorncliffe school council chairman, said he pulled his children out of school for the week because he disagrees with the content of the new curriculum. The province is pushing an agenda that doesn’t sit well with many parents in this largely immigrant community, he said.
“They’re trying to promote what 8% of the people (believe) and impose their lifestyles on 92% of the people,” Azeem insisted. “Enough is enough. In a country like Canada, it’s secular, everyone has a right to live and have their freedom of speech.
“They can do anything that they want … but don’t come in my house and talk to my kids and spoil their future.”
Kimberly Cormier, who organized a protest at Queen’s Park for a group called Coalition of Concerned Parents, accused supporters of Wynne of “cyberbullying” parents opposed to the new curriculum.
“We are being bullied and picked on,” she said. “My message is that we need a voice. We need to be heard by Kathleen Wynne. She needs to stop bullying us.
“A lot of the people who are for Kathleen Wynne have been cyberbullying us, calling us homophobes, extremists and terrorists. There are people from every culture here. We are Canadians.”
Education Minister Liz Sandals said Monday she’s concerned about the children being pulled from school over the curriculum.
“If parents pull their kids out of school, that means they’re missing English, they’re missing math, they’re missing science, they’re missing social studies,” Sandals said.
— With files from Antonella Artuso
Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum will change September 2015. Here’s what will be taught:
- Grade 1: Children will learn to identify body parts using the correct terminology for genitalia.
- Grade 2: Students will receive instruction on the basic stages of human development.
- Grade 3: Lessons begin on gender identity and sexual orientation.
- Grade 4: Teachers will provide descriptions of physical changes that occur at puberty and address cyber and face-to-face bullying, including homophobia.
- Grade 5: Parts of the reproductive system will be covered in lessons.
- Grade 6: Students will discuss masturbation and negative gender stereotypes.
- Grade 7: Teachers are to introduce the concept of consent. Sexually transmitted diseases and risks around teen pregnancy will also be incorporated in lessons.
- Grade 8: Students will learn about contraception, sexual intimacy and decisions about sexual activity.
Absence rates at two of the GTA’s largest school boards spiked dramatically Monday as parents pulled their children out of elementary classrooms to protest the new provincial sex-ed curriculum.
Toronto District School Board
- Absences May 4: 34,762
- Absences the previous Monday (April 27): 14,191.
*TDSB officials say the number of students absent on May 4 represents a 144% increase over the previous Monday.
Peel District School Board
- Average elementary absence per day: 10,000
- Absences May 4: 11,700
*Peel board officials say this represents a 10% increase, but absences cannot be specifically attributed to the “updated Health and Physical Education curriculum strike” and includes all types of absences including field trips, vacations, bus issues, illness, etc.