"All students must be able to see themselves reflected in the curriculum and they must feel valued, included, and respected. We will need some time to fully review the new curriculum," said Cathy Abraham, OPSBA President. "I was pleased to see that the new curriculum reflects much of the work that school boards have been doing for some time, as well as the strategic mental health work of School Mental Health Ontario. The inclusion of concepts such as cyber-bullying, consent, body image, body shaming, and the modernization of substance abuse sections to include mentions of opioids and the adverse cognitive impacts of cannabis, are all good news.
Although we have some concerns about the introduction of certain topics being delayed beyond the point at which students may begin to experience them, we are pleased that the Minister has acknowledged that every teacher in the province has the professional discretion to introduce any concept that they believe is important to ensure the safety and well-being of their students. Teachers need to have the ability to respond to the students' experiences in real time. We look forward to working with the government to seek clarification on certain elements of the curriculum."
The mandated role of publicly elected school board trustees is to support student achievement and well-being for each and every student in their care. OPSBA's key priorities have always focused on the social, emotional, intellectual, physical and mental well-being of children and youth.
The Ministry of Education has mandated that, by November 30, 2019, all school boards in Ontario develop a policy/procedure that allows parents to exempt their children from instruction of the Human Development and Sexual Health Education component of the elementary HPE curriculum. OPSBA will work with the government to seek clarity around the new policy, and the obligation of school boards to balance the option for students to opt out with their human rights policies and procedures and Ontario Human Rights Code obligations.