| Aug 01, 2018

Last Friday, (July 27) the Limestone District School Board joined with other boards in Ontario who are urging the new Ford government to reconsider its decision to pull the health and physical education curriculum that was instituted in 2015 from Ontario schools.

In a letter to Minister of Education, Lisa Thompson, , Board Chair Paula Murray and Director of Education Debra Rantz ask for clarity around recent direction to revert to the what they called an “antiquated 1998 curriculum which does not support today’s students or families.”

The Board is asking the Ministry to “maintain the 2015 documents so educators may continue to support our students on important topics such as gay marriage, gender identity, sexting and sexual consent.”

In their letter, Murray and Rantz referred to the Ontario Equity Action Plan (2017) to illustrate the role that the curriculum plays in the healthy development of the students in the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington region who attend Limestone schools. The Act says that the “the success of our graduates necessitates building their confidence in who they are and their resilience in the face of adversity and ensuring they feel accepted and included … Students must also experience teaching and learning that is reflective of their needs and of who they are.”

In the Limestone context, the letter says “in Limestone, we know firsthand the importance of this work. We know that our students must see themselves reflected in our curriculum, in our buildings, in our culture, to feel safe and supported, and to ensure their well-being. Our staff has used this curriculum to help empower our students to reach their full potential while supporting their emotional, mental and physical needs. Reverting to an outdated curriculum flies in the face of this progressive work and the Board does not support such a move.”

Within the City of Kingston there was a 53% increase in reports of sexual assault in 2017. Rantz and Murray say the increase may by in part due to the #MeToo movement giving confidence and support to Kingston residents to come forward.

“Our students need to learn about the concept of consent and the vocabulary of body parts so that they can speak clearly to police, and we can all work together as a community to prevent sexual abuse and ensure the safety and well-being of all of our students. This partnership is well supported by dedicated and experienced educators who have been professionally trained on how to respond and support students in need,” they wrote.

Finally, they referred to the “three pillars of Wellness, Innovation, and Collaboration” that the board adopted as core priorities several years ago.

“We are fiercely committed to those priorities, which include inclusion and equity for all,” they wrote, saying that the 2015 Health and Phys Ed curriculum plays a significant role in making the “board responsive to our students’ needs and ensuring they have the learning opportunities they deserve in 2018.

“We want everyone to see themselves in Limestone and this curriculum is key to helping achieve that goal.”

As of Tuesday (July 31) 20 Ontario Boards have sent similar letters to the Minister, including the Toronto District School Board, Durham District School Board, Kawartha Pine Ridge, Thames Valley, Ottawa Carleton, Simcoe County and Lambton Kent.

Opponents of the change in curriculum point out that the old curriculum, which is slated to be re-instituted this year, had been in place since 1998, when the impact of the Internet and Social Media on students was not yet a factor.

For her part, Minister Thompson referred only to the recent past in defending the old curriculum.

“Teachers are going to be going back to what they taught in 2014, and they’re familiar with that curriculum,” she told the Toronto Star

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