LONDON, Ont. — Complaints over a sex ed curriculum for Ontario elementary schools with lessons about same-sex marriage, masturbation and oral sex at various grade levels saw the province beat a hasty retreat Thursday, vowing to consult parents and rework the program.
The curriculum, which was to be implemented in the fall, was quietly posted on a government website months ago but blew up publicly Tuesday when Premier Dalton McGuinty confirmed the details.
While McGuinty stood behind the program initially he conceded Thursday that the government went too far too far and didn’t consult widely enough.
“We spent a good 24 to 48 hours now listening to parents, our caucus, and parents through our caucus, who have responded, and it’s become pretty obvious we should give this a serious rethink,” McGuinty said after an unrelated event in this southwestern Ontario city.
“I know that parents are in fact supportive of the idea that children should be taught about their body parts, their relationships and those kinds of things, but they are obviously not comfortable with the proposal that we put forward, so we’re going to improve upon that.”
The government, McGuinty added, will “create more opportunities for parents to lend shape to a policy with which they are more comfortable.”
Under the changes released without fanfare in January, Grade 1 kids were to be taught to identify genitalia — among other body parts — using the correct word, such as penis, vagina and testicle.
Grade 3 students would learn about same-sex families while Grade 5 kids were to be taught to identify parts of the reproductive system and describe how the body changes during puberty.
In Grade 7, the plan was to teach kids how to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Conservative groups charged that teaching sixth graders about masturbation and vaginal lubrication and 12 year olds about oral and anal sex bordered on criminal.
Now that the curriculum has been pulled for retooling the existing sex ed program, which hasn’t been update for some 12 years, will remain in place.
On Wednesday, McGuinty was adamant that Catholic schools — which are publicly funded — would have to abide by the new curriculum and the government said the province’s bishops were onside.
“There are certain proposed topics in that curriculum which concern many parents as well as Ontario’s Catholic bishops,” said Lou Piovesan of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario.
“If some content related to faith and morality matters is indeed determined to be at variance with (our) principles, it would not be endorsed for use in Catholic schools.”