By Susan Zuidema, author “My Child, My Chance”
“What if, en mass, we just kept teaching the new health curriculum? They can’t discipline us all, can they?” – Ontario teacher
This in-between time is dangerous. I’m referring to the time between the repeal of the 2015 Ontario sex education curriculum and the introduction of a replacement.
Everyone can agree that the 1998 curriculum is woefully out of date. But opinions around what should “obviously” continue to be covered in the 2018-2019 school year (curriculum or no) varies based on individual convictions and beliefs.
As a group, Ontario’s teachers support the complete 2015 curriculum. Sam Hammond, representing Ontario’s public school teachers as president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) listed “Sexting, online bullying, and information about consent” as key topics. He points the finger at “a minority group of socially conservative parents (who) oppose the current curriculum, some without having seen it” suggesting that some of their concern “stems from homophobia.”
Hammond asserted that “the current curriculum addresses lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in a meaningful and age-appropriate way.”
Many parents disagree that the curriculum handles certain sensitive topics included in its sex education in an age-appropriate manner. Some of these are mentioned by Hammond but there are a vast array of others.
Who is to decide in the 2018-2019 school year what will be actually taught? Unless Conservatives deliver a clear directive, it is going to be up to those on the front lines: the teachers. Here’s what they have to say about it.
One suggested that teachers can teach whatever they want because no one ever checks on what they are doing in their classroom.
Clearly, there remains a call to vigilance for parents with children in the public system – perhaps now more than ever. Until there is a clear directive and a replacement, teachers can use their “professional judgment” in what they teach (see also “Understanding Your Professional Judgment“, a flyer by ETFO). This includes not only topics related to sex and equity but any other topic they deem relevant. As evidenced by the discussion above, many teachers feel it is their professional obligation to teach gender theory and sexual equity and plan to continue to do so.
As a public school teacher, I used my professional judgment to regularly include a series of lessons on internet safety well before the 2015 curriculum came out. I wanted to be sure that expectations around internet use were clearly established and I felt confident that parents would agree in my decision. I notified parents we were discussing the topic and sent supporting materials home to help them carry on the discussion. My professional judgment allowed me to cover an important area I felt the curriculum was missing.
This same professional judgment is used by teachers everyday when they teach extracurricular material. In the years leading up to 2015, this already included topics of social justice and equity. Yet, it’s not limited to topics in sex ed. In My Child, My Chance, I list several examples of how sexual and gender diversity were taught prior to the 2015 curriculum, often within the language, social studies, and even math curriculum!
Another example might involve eastern meditation. In the 2017-2018 school year, my own school introduced Kundalini yoga, a school of yoga that is influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism. The school rebranded the activities as “mindfulness and wellness” following my expression of concern about the religious elements.
As the world celebrates Pride month, I am once again excited to offer our FREE resource: “June is God’s Promises Month!“
Throughout the month of June, many communities are flying the rainbow (Pride) flag. Why not turn this into a learning experience for your children – about God’s promises!
The rainbow first showed up in the sky after the great flood of Noah’s day, as a sign of God’s promise never to destroy the earth with a flood again. Throughout the month of June, you can celebrate the many meaningful promises God makes to his children while reclaiming the true meaning of the rainbow. Click this link to automatically download your free copy today!
Read our blog post from last year: “Does flying the Pride flag over public schools for the entire month of June promote true equity?”
The times, they are a-changin’.
It seems like it is becoming more and more common for children to be at odds with their biological gender. Or maybe we are just hearing about it much more often. In the not-too-distant past, there were a variety of options for a family to pursue including counseling and therapy. This was good and helpful, as it is commonly agreed that most children who experience gender dysphoria will ultimately come to identify with their biological gender. [Globe and Mail, American Psychiatric Association, ETFO] I think we can all agree that this is the best outcome for these kids.
In spite of this, the laws in Ontario have shifted once again with the passing of Bill 89, the “Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act,” putting at-risk children in a more precarious position than ever. It has been well documented that people who sustain a long-term struggle with their gender identity suffer from depression and suicidality at a rate much higher than the general population [Williams Institute]. They may also have other dismal outcomes such as a greatly heightened occurrence of HIV infection [Centre for Disease Control].
Without being able to consider any root causes for gender confusion (e.g., molestation or neglect), transitioning a child to their “felt” gender is now presented as the only acceptable, even legal, response. This completely disregards the likelihood that there may be a specific, resolvable reason why they “feel” that way! A reason that, if unresolved, will go on to cause serious issues throughout the life of the child affected.
This being said, what are the options today in Ontario for children who are struggling with gender dysphoria? Who can help?
Thanks to Bill 89, parents have their hands tied when it comes to advocating for their child to reconcile with their biological sex. If they do not support their child’s wish to transition to the opposite gender, they run the very real risk of having that child removed from their home by the Children’s Aid because this is now considered abuse. Minister of Child and Family Services Michael Coteau, who introduced Bill 89, said “I would consider that a form of abuse, when a child identifies one way and a caregiver is saying no, you need to do this differently… If it’s abuse, and if it’s within the definition, a child can be removed from that environment and placed into protection where the abuse stops.” [LifeSiteNews]
Doctors and psychologists can’t.
There are presently no legal options available to medical professionals except to support the transition of a child to their felt gender. Ontario’s Bill 77 , the “Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act 2015” made certain of this. It declared that if a child feels that his or her true gender is opposite to their physical gender, it is an offence for a medical or psychological practitioner to provide treatment that will help align that person’s felt gender to their physical gender, even if this is what he or she wants. These practitioners can only recommend gender transition as a solution, or they risk losing their medical licence.
Public school board policies are now such that a teacher cannot talk to a parent without the student’s explicit prior consent if a child expresses a desire to present as the opposite gender at school. Teachers must refer these children to their administration [see example]. Administrators refer the student to “appropriate confidential support,” for example, counselling; a sexual assault centre; Kids Help Phone; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered [LGBT] Youth Line. [Ontario Policy and Program memorandum 145]. The result is a child who unbeknownst to their parents may present as one gender at school and another at home.
At the moment, churches can.
In spite of the fact that most churches are not currently trained or prepared to help a family navigate these issues, they remain the final bastion of hope for these children – if a family is brave enough to seek this help. This means churches need to step up and get ready to answer hard questions like,
- What is your position on the best approach for children who are struggling with issues of gender?
- What advice would you give parents whose child has gender dysphoria?
- Who can you recommend in your community to help families (if your church is not equipped to do so directly)?
- How will you handle it if a child in our children’s or youth ministry says they wish to transition genders?
Churches – you need to become equipped to help families navigate these tough issues!
Blindly, immediately, allowing a child to transition socially (and possibly medically) to a felt gender, without first exploring root causes, is the height of neglect. Statistics and studies prove that this is essentially condemning a child to a lifetime of confusion, depression, and even suicidality among other horrific outcomes. And yet, this is exactly what our government has determined is going to be the only legal way to address the issue.
How have we gotten to the place as a society that there is only one approved solution to a very, very complex problem? How can we risk the very lives of our children to this cause?