The sky is (not actually) falling! Highlights of the 2015 Ontario Sex Ed Curriculum

Today is the day!! The revised 2015 Ontario Health And Physical Education Curriculum (including, of greatest interest to most people, sexual education) has finally been released. Hooray!!! This means that at long last we can actually put aside our speculations and take ACTUAL FACTS AND QUOTATIONS woefully out of context!!

The sky is [not] falling! A comprehensive precis of the 2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum - Elementary 2015 Ontario Elementary schools sexual education curriculum; #summary

The sky is [not] falling! A comprehensive precis of the 2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum – Elementary

Just kidding! We’re all going to act like grown-ups here and assess the facts objectively before jumping to any conclusions. And to help out with that, I’ve taken some time this morning to go over the new curriculum with a fine-tooth comb and provide you with a summary.

Full disclosure: If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I view the world through a lens of intersectional feminism, or what some might term pinko-ultra-liberalism. Obviously, that informs my OPINION of this new curriculum, but I am going to do my very best here to present THE FACTS without editorializing. Please feel free to contact me if you feel I have misrepresented the facts in any way. I have no paid or voluntary affiliation whatsoever with the Government of Ontario, any teacher’s association, or any group that has influence in or is affected by the school system in any except as a parent of a primary school student.

I will structure this summary by grade, the same way that the curriculum document itself is structured. The full curriculum document can be found here.  I will concentrate on the “Healthy Living” strand at each grade level, which is where we will find the majority of the information relating to what is commonly referred to as “sex ed.” Anywhere that I make use of an ellipsis […] I have eliminated phrases that do not relate to the topic of sexual education, and I have only done so in places where the elimination does not change the overall meaning of the quotation in any way.

All kidding aside, my goal in providing this summary is to offer a concise representation of what this rather long document actually says – I’ve read through the 230 or so pages so you don’t have to, although you are absolutely welcome to – I’m not trying to hide anything!

Here, again, is the link to the 2015 Ontario Health Education Curriculum. The more closely you read it, I feel, the better! My summary is comprised of direct quotes, with page numbers provided. I have provided brief notes for clarification in a few places to point out where, in my opinion, items in the curriculum have been misunderstood or misrepresented in the past.

2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum – Sexual Education

Overview – Grade 1-3

“Particular emphasis is placed on having students learn how to take responsibility for their own safety, at home and in the community, how to stand up for themselves, how to listen to and respect others, and how to get help in situations of abuse. Students also learn to understand and apply basic concepts related to healthy food choices, healthy relationships, diversity, and substance use and potentially addictive behaviours. They learn the names of body parts, begin to understand how their bodies work and develop, and acquire an understanding of some of the factors that contribute to healthy physical, social, and emotional development.” (p. 81)

Grade 1 (approximate age 5.5-7 years)

Human Development and Sexual Health

C1.3 Body parts

“identify body parts, including genitalia (e.g., penis, testicles, vagina, vulva), using correct terminology” (p. 93)

Personal Safety and Injury Prevention

C2.3 Caring and exploitive behaviours and feelings

“demonstrate the ability to recognize […] exploitative behaviours (e.g., inappropriate touching, verbal or physical abuse, bullying)” (p. 94)

Grade 2 (approximate age 6.5-8 years)

Human Development and Sexual Health

C1.4 Stages of development

“outline the basic stages of human development (e.g., infant, child, adolescent, adult, older adult) and related bodily changes, and identify factors that are important for healthy growth and living throughout life” (p. 108)

Personal Safety and Injury Prevention

C2.3 Standing up for yourself

“explain the importance of standing up for themselves and demonstrate the ability to apply behaviours that enhance their personal safety in threatening situations (e.g., speaking confidently; stating boundaries; saying no; respecting the right of a person to say no and encouraging others to respect that right also; reporting exploitive behaviours, such as improper touching of their bodies or others’ bodies)

Teacher prompt: “If someone does something that you do not like, touches you in an inappropriate way, or asks to touch you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable or confused, how can you stand up for yourself?”

Student: “I can say no and move away. My body is mine. I can tell someone — like a parent, a teacher, an elder, a doctor — that I need help. I can keep telling until I get help.” (p. 109)

C3.1 Relating to others

“describe how to relate positively to others (e.g., cooperate, show respect, smile, manage anger, pay attention to what people say and to their facial expressions and body language), and describe behaviours that can be harmful in relating to others (e.g., verbal abuse, including online and face-to-face name calling, insults, and mocking; deliberately ignore someone, or ignoring the feelings they express; physical violence, including pushing, kicking, and hitting) (p. 110)

Karyn says: This is the concept that that is being referred to when detractors of the curriculum talk about introducing concepts of “rape” and “enthusiastic consent” in primary grades.

Grade 3 (approximate ages 7-5-9 years)

Human Development and Sexual Health

C1.3 Healthy relationships

“identify the characteristics of healthy relationships (e.g., accepting differences, being inclusive, communicating openly, listening, showing mutual respect and caring, being honest!), and describe ways of overcoming challenges (e.g., bullying, exclusion, peer pressure, abuse) in a relationship” (p. 121)

C3.3 Visible, invisible differences, respect

“describe how visible differences (e.g., skin, hair, and eye colour, facial features, body size and shape, physical aids or different physical abilities, clothing, possessions) and invisible differences (e.g., learning abilities, skills and talents, personal or cultural values and beliefs, gender identify, sexual orientation, family background, personal preferences, allergies and sensitivities) make each person unique, and identify ways of showing respect for differences in others”

Teacher prompt: “Sometimes we are different in ways you can see. Sometimes we are different in ways you cannot see — such as how we learn, what we think, and what we are able to do. Give me some examples or things that make each person unique.”

Student: “We all come from different families. Some students live with two parents. Some live with one parent. Some have two mothers or two fathers. Some live with grandparents or with caregivers. We may come from different cultures. We also have different talents and abilities and different things that we find difficult to do.”

Teacher: “How can you be a role model and show respect for differences in other people?”

Student: “I can include others in what I am doing, invite them to join a group, be willing to be a partner with anyone for an activity, and be wiling to learn about others.” (p. 124)

Karyn says: This is the section cited by critics as introducing primary children to homosexuality. Differences in gender, sexuality, and cultural and religious beliefs, among others, are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act. Even if your own personal beliefs do not line up with the laws of Canada, including those around non-discrimination, your children will be required to be versed in those beliefs and to abide by those laws while in the public school system.

Overview – Grade 4-6

“Because students at this age are approaching or beginning puberty, the curriculum expectations provide an opportunity for students to develop the knowledge and skills that they will need to understand the physical, emotional, and social changes that they are experiencing or are about to go through. Topics include reproduction, self-concept, relationships, stress management, and decision making.

Students who are well informed, who have had the opportunity to do some thinking in advance, and who have been able to practise the appropriate decision-making skills are likely to make wiser decisions about their health.” (p. 127-128)

Grade 4 (approximate age 8.5-10 years)

Personal Safety and Injury Prevention

C1.2 Safe use of technology

“identify risks associated with communication technology (e.g., Internet and cell phone use, including participation in gaming and online communities and the use of text messaging), and describe precautions and strategies for using these technologies safely” (p. 140)

C1.3 Bullying and abuse

“describe various types of bullying and abuse (e.g., social, physical, verbal), including bullying using technology (e.g., via e-mail, text messaging, chat rooms, websites), and identify appropriate ways of responding” (p. 140)

Human Development and Sexual Health

C1.5 Puberty – changes; emotional , social impact

“describe the physical changes that occur in males and females at puberty (e.g., growth of body hair, breast development, changes in voice and body size, production of body odour, skin changes) and the emotional and social impacts that may result from these changes” (p. 141)

Grade 5 (approximate age 9.5-11 years)

Human Development and Sexual Health

C1.3 Reproductive system

“identify the parts of the reproductive system, and describe how the body changes during puberty” (p. 156)

C1.4 Menstruation, spermatogenesis

“describe the processes of menstruation and spermatogenesis, and explain how these processes relate to reproduction and overall development” (p. 156)

Teacher: “The testicles are glands within the scrotum that produce sperm and hormones, beginning at puberty. After sperm develops in the testicles, it can travel through the epididymis until it reaches the vas deferens where it is stored until ejaculation occurs. during ejaculation, the prostate gland releases a liquid that mixes with the sperm from the vas deferens to make semen, which then leaves the body through the urethra. Fertilization can occur when the penis is in the vagina, sperm is ejaculated, and the sperm and egg connect. Babies can also be conceived by having the sperm and egg connect using assisted reproductive technologies.” (p. 157)

Karyn says: This curriculum requirement – learning the process of reproduction in grade 5 – has not changed from the 1998 curriculum – available here. In fact, I don’t think it’s changed since I was in grade 5 in 1989.

C2.4 Emotional, interpersonal stresses – puberty

“describe emotional and interpersonal stresses related to puberty (e.g., questions about changing bodies and feelings, adjusting to changing relationships, crushes and more intense feelings, conflicts between personal desires and cultural teachings and practices), and identify strategies that they can apply to manage stress, build resilience, and enhance their mental health and emotional well-being (e.g., being active, writing feelings in a journal, accessing information about their concerns, taking action on a concern, talking to a trusted peer or adult, breathing deeply, meditating, seeking cultural advice from elders)”

Teacher prompt: “Think about some things that could lead to stress for adolescents. For example, as they grow, people sometimes feel self-conscious about their bodies, but we all grow at different rates and you can’t control how fast you grow. When you think about how to respond to stress, consider what is within your control and what is not.”

Student: “Things I can control include whether I have a positive or negative attitude about things, how I show respect for myself and others, whether I ask for help when I need it, whether I am involved in activities at school and in my community, actions I take, whether I am open to new ideas, and whether I make my own decisions about things or let myself be influenced by others. Things I cannot control include where I was born, who is in my family, how much money my family has, and personal characteristics such as my skin colour, hair colour, whether I am male or female, my gender identity, sexual orientation, and overall body shape and structure. I could have a learning disability, a physical disability, or a health issue. All of these things are a part of who I am. I cannot control these things, but I can control what I do and how I act.” (p. 158-159)

Karyn says: This section will likely draw criticism from people with conservative belief systems. This is the first place (grade 5) where the curriculum addresses the concept of gender identity and sexual orientation being innate. The curriculum does provide opportunity for teachers to refer students with concerns about this concept back to their parents or faith leaders with the suggestions to talk to a trusted peer or adult or seek cultural advice from elders.

Personal Safety and Injury Prevention

C2.2 Strategies – threats to personal safety

demonstrate the ability to deal with threatening situations by applying appropriate living skills

Teacher prompt: “What strategies could you use in a situation where you were being harassed because of your sex, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, body shape, weight, or ability?” (p. 157)

Karyn says: Again, the curriculum touches on the concepts of gender identity/expression and sexual orientation, because regardless of a student or their family’s personal beliefs, we are protected by law from being discriminated against based on these and other characteristics. In my opinion, this curriculum does not “glorify” these differences, as asserted in criticism, but no longer renders them invisible as they were previously.

C3.2  Actions, self-concept

“explain how a person’s actions, either in person or online, can affect their own and others’ feelings, self-concept, emotional well-being, and reputation (e.g., negative actions such as name calling, making homophobic or racist remarks, mocking appearance or ability, excluding, bullying, sexual harassment [including online activities such as making sexual comments, sharing sexual pictures, or asking for such pictures to be sent]; positive actions such as praising, supporting, including, and advocating)” (p. 160)

Karyn says: This is the first introduction of the concept of “sexting” – both sending and receiving/requesting.  The 1998 curriculum did not address this concept as it did not exist at the time.

Grade 6 (approximate age 10.5-12)

Human Development and Sexual Health

C1.3 Development of self-concept

“identify factors that affect the development of a person’s self-concept (e.g., environment, evaluations by others who are important to them, stereotypes, awareness of strengths and needs, social competencies, cultural and gender identity, support, body image, mental health and emotional well-being, physical abilities)

C2.5 Understanding of puberty changes, healthy relationships

“describe how they can build confidence and lay a foundation for healthy relationships by acquiring a clearer understanding of the physical, social, and emotional changes that occur during adolescence (e.g., physical: voice changes, skin changes, body growth; social: changing social relationships, increasing influence of peers; emotional: increased intensity of feelings, new interest in relationships with boys or girls, confusion and questions about changes)

Teacher prompt: “Things like wet dreams or vaginal lubrication are normal and happen as a result of physical changes with puberty. Exploring one’s body by touching or masturbating is something that many people do and find pleasurable. It is common and is not harmful and is one way of learning about your body.” (p. 174-175)

Karyn says: Concept of masturbation introduced (and described as normal) in grade 6. This topic was not addressed in the 1998 curriculum.

C2.6 Decision making in relationships

“make informed decisions that demonstrate respect for themselves and others and help to build healthier relationships, using a variety of living skills (e.g., personal and interpersonal skills; critical and creative thinking skills; skills based on First Nation, Métis, and Inuit cultural teachings, such as medicine wheel teachings connected to the four colour or seven grandfather teachings, or other cultural teachings)

Teacher: “How does knowing yourself help you to make healthy decisions when you are in a relationship?”

Student: “Being clear about your own values, priorities, strengths, and needs can help you separate what is important to you from what is not. Knowing yourself well can help you see what you need to work on to make the relationship better.”

Teacher: “What communication skills can help you send information, receive information, and interpret information in an effective way in a relationship?”

Student: “Being respectful but clear about your ideas and feelings; listening actively; interpreting body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions; respecting signals of agreement or disagreement and consent or lack of consent; and negotiating – all these are important skills. A clear “yes” is a signal of consent. A response of ”no”, an uncertain response, or silence needs to be understood as no consent.” (p. 175)

Karyn says: ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT!!!! Sorry…got a little excited there. This is where that earlier introduction of reading facial cues and body language connects with the sexuality – actually, the relationship – piece.

C3.3 Stereotypes and assumptions – impacts and strategies for responding

assess the effects of stereotypes, including homophobia and assumptions regarding gender roles and expectations, sexual orientation, gender expression, race, ethnicity or culture, mental health, and abilities, on an individual’s self-concept, social inclusion, and relationships with others, and propose appropriate ways of responding to and changing assumptions and stereotypes

Teacher prompt: “[…] Assumptions like these are usually untrue, and they can be harmful. They can make people who do not fit into the expected norms feel confused or bad about themselves, damaging their self-concept, and they can cause people to discriminate against and exclude those who are seen as ‘different’. Assumptions about different sexual orientations or about people with learning disabilities or mental illness or about people from other cultures are harmful in similar ways. Everyone needs to feel accepted in school and in the community. Why do you think these stereotyped assumptions occur? What can be done to change or challenge them?”

Students: “Stereotypes are usually formed when we do not have enough information. We can get rid of a lot of stereotypes just by finding out more about people who seem different. By being open-minded, observing and listening, asking questions, getting more information, and considering different perspectives, we can work to change stereotypes. We can understand people’s sexual orientations better, for example, by reading books that describe various types of families and relationships. Not everyone has a mother and a father – someone might have two mothers or two fathers (or just one parent or a grandparent, a caregiver, or a guardian). We need to make sure that we don’t assume that all couples are of the opposite sex, and show this by the words we use. For example, we could use a word like ‘partner’ instead of ‘husband’ or ‘wife’. We need to be inclusive and welcoming.” […] “If we hear things that are sexist, homophobic, or racist, we can show our support for those who are being disrespected.” (p. 177)

Overview – Grade 7-8

“The human development and sexual health expectations recognize that students at this age are developing their sense of personal identity, which includes their sexual identity. Students may already be involved in or contemplating sexual activity or dealing with relationship issues that affect their self-concept and sense of well-being. Consequently, there is an emphasis on developing the skills needed for maintaining healthy relationships and acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to make informed decisions about their sexual health. Key topics include delaying sexual activity, preventing pregnancy and disease, understanding how gender identity and sexual orientation affect overall identity and self-concept, and making decisions about sexual health and intimacy.” (p. 182)

Grade 7 (approximate age 11.5-13 years)

Personal Safety and Injury Prevention

C1.1 Benefits and dangers – technology

“describe benefits and dangers, for themselves and others, that are associated with the use of computers and other technologies … and identify protective responses”

Teacher prompt: “Sexting – or the practice of sending explicit sexual messages or photos electronically, predominantly by cell phone – is a practice that has significant risks. What are some of those risks? What can you do to minimize those risks and treat others with respect?

Students: “Photos and messages can become public even if shared for only a second. They can be manipulated or misinterpreted. If they become public, they can have an impact on the well-being of the persons involved, their future relationships, and even their jobs. There are also legal penalties for anyone sharing images without consent.” “You shouldn’t pressure people to send photos of themselves. If someone does send you a photo, you should not send it to anyone else or share it online, because respecting privacy and treating others with respect are just as important with online technology as with face-to-face interactions.” (p. 194-195)

C2.2 Impact – bullying/harassment

“assess the impact of different types of bullying or harassment, including the harassment and coercion that can occur with behaviours such as sexting, on themselves and others, and identify ways of preventing or resolving such incidents”

Teacher prompt: “What are some of the consequences of using homophobic put-downs or racial slurs? How can this hurtful behaviour be prevented?”

Student: “Using homophobic or racist language is discriminatory. It hurts the people who are targeted and it can have harmful consequences for the whole atmosphere in the school. Sometimes, people speak without thinking about what they are actually saying and how they are hurting others. To change this behaviour, everyone needs to take responsibility for the words they use and also to challenge others who make discriminatory comments or put people down, whether in person or online.” (p. 198)

Karyn says: Again, it is important to note that although families may hold different personal beliefs, the public school system is obligated to educate children within the bounds of the laws of Canada, including those around non-discrimination.

• • • • •

Teacher prompt: “Inappropriate sexual behaviour, including things like touching someone’s body as they walk by in the hall, making sexual comments, or pulling pieces of clothing up or down, is sexual harassment. Texting someone constantly can also be harassment. What can you do to stop this kind of thing?”

Students: “Don’t do it. Don’t encourage others to do it. Don’t accept it if you see it happening – whether in person or on social media. Tell the person to stop, or report them.” “Online, you can call someone on unacceptable language, but it’s better to have a face-to-face conversation about it afterwards.” (p.198)

Human Development and Sexual Health

C1.3 Delaying sexual activity

“explain the importance of having a shared understanding with a partner about the following: delaying sexual activity until they are older (e.g., choosing to abstain from any genital contact; choosing to abstain from having vaginal or anal intercourse; choosing to abstain from having oral-genital contact); the reasons for not engaging in sexual activity; the concept of consent and how consent is communicated; and, in general, the need to communicate clearly with each other when making decisions about sexual activity in the relationship”

Teacher prompt: “The term abstinence can mean different things to different people. People can also have different understandings of what is meant by having or not having sex. Be clear in your own mind about what you are comfortable or uncomfortable with. Being able to talk about this with a partner is an important part of sexual health. Having sex can be an enjoyable experience and can be an important part of a close relationship when you are older. But having sex has risks too, including physical risks like sexually transmitted infections – which are common and which can hurt you – and getting pregnant when you don’t want to. What are some of the emotional considerations to think about?”

Student: “It’s best to wait until you are older to have sex because you need to be emotionally ready, which includes being able to talk with your partner about how you feel, being prepared to talk about and use protection against STIs or pregnancy, and being prepared to handle the emotional ups and downs of a relationship, including the ending of a relationship, which can hurt a lot. Personal values, family values, and religious beliefs can influence how you think about sexuality and sexual activity. A person should not have sex if their partner is not ready or has not given consent, if they are feeling pressured, if they are unsure, or if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.” (p. 195-196)

Karyn says: One of the key criticisms of the updated criticism is the introduction of the concepts of oral and anal sex. Critiques often present the curriculum as explicitly describing these concepts and presenting them in an affirmative way. This quote makes it clear that these (and all sexual activities) are being presented to grade 7 students in the context of abstinence – that these are some of the sexual activities that they can choose to abstain from until they are older – and are not being explicitly described.

C1.4 Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

“identify common sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and describe their symptoms” (p. 196)

C1.5 STI and pregnancy prevention

“identify ways of preventing STIs, including HIV, and/or unintended pregnancy, such as delaying first intercourse and other sexual activities until a person is older and using condoms consistently if and when a person becomes sexually active”

Teacher prompt: “Engaging in sexual activities like oral sex, vaginal intercourse, and anal intercourse means that you can be infected with an STI. If you do not have sex, you do not need to worry about getting an STI. (By the way, statistics show that young people who delay first intercourse are more likely to use protection when they choose to be sexually active.) If a person is thinking of having sex, what can they do to protect themselves?”

Student: “They should go to a health clinic or see a nurse or doctor who can provide important information about protection. People who think they will be having sex sometime soon should keep a condom with them so they will have it when they need it. They should also talk with their partner about using a condom before they have sex, so both partners will know a condom will be used. If a partner says they do not want to use a condom, a person should say, ‘I will not have sex without a condom.’ If you do have sex, it is important that you use a condom every time, because condoms help to protect you against STIs, including HIV, and pregnancy.” (p. 196)

Karyn says: Concepts of oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse are discussed in the context of risks and protection, with the initial emphasis recommended in the teacher prompt on abstaining or delaying these activities until older.

C2.4 Sexual health and decision-making

“demonstrate an understanding of physical, emotional, social, and psychological factors that need to be considered when making decisions related to sexual health (e.g., sexually transmitted infections [STIs], possible contraceptive side effects, pregnancy, protective value of vaccinations, social labelling, gender identity, sexual orientation, self-concept issues, relationships, desire, pleasure, cultural teachings)” 

Teacher prompt: “Thinking about your sexual health is complicated. It’s important to have a good understanding of yourself before getting involved with someone else. It’s not just about making a decision to have sex or waiting until you are older. It’s also about things such as your physical readiness; safer sex and avoiding consequences such as pregnancy or STIs; your sexual orientation and gender identity; your understanding of your own body, including what gives you pleasure; and the emotional implications of sexual intimacy and being in a relationship. It can include religious beliefs. It includes moral and ethical considerations as well, and also involves the need to respect the rights of other people. Can you explain what is meant by a moral consideration?”

Student: “A moral consideration is what you believe is right or wrong. It is influenced by your personal, family, and religious values. Every person in our society should treat other people fairly and with respect. It is important to take this into account when we think about our relationships, sexual behaviour, and activities.”

Teacher: “Like any other decision, a decision about sexual health requires you to look at all sides of an issue. How can you do that?”

Student: “You need to consider the pros and cons of any decision you are making, and how those decisions will affect both you and others.” (p. 199)

Karyn says: Introduces the concept of personal and familial values relating to sexual behaviour. The curriculum does not place a value judgement on sexual behaviours but recognizes that in addition to the factual information provided, students will be guided by their personal beliefs (which in turn will have been guided by their family life). At this point, the updated curriculum actually identifies parents/guardians (trusted adults/elders) as sources of support EARLIER than the 1998 curriculum.

C3.3 Relationship changes at puberty

“explain how relationships with others (e.g., family, peers) and sexual health may be affected by the physical and emotional changes associated with puberty (e.g., effect of physical maturation and emotional changes on family relationships, interest in intimate relationships and effect on peer relationships, risk of STIs and/or pregnancy with sexual contact)” (p. 200)

Grade 8 (approximate age 12.5-14)

Human Development and Sexual Health

C1.4 Decisions about sexual activity; supports

“identify and explain factors that can affect an individual’s decisions about sexual activity (e.g., previous thinking about reasons to wait, including making a choice to delay sexual activity and establishing personal limits; perceived personal readiness; peer pressure; desire; curiosity; self-concept; awareness and acceptance of gender identity and sexual orientation; physical or cognitive disabilities and possible associated assumptions; legal concerns; awareness of health risks, including risk of STIs and blood-borne infections; concerns about risk of pregnancy; use of alcohol or drugs; personal or family values; religious beliefs; cultural teachings; access to information; media messages), and identify sources of support regarding sexual health (e.g., a health professional [doctor, nurse, public health practitioner], a community elder, a teacher, a religious leader, a parent or other trusted adult, a reputable website)

Teacher prompt: “How would thinking about your personal limits and making a personal plan influence decisions you may choose to make about sexual activity?”

Student: “Thinking in advance about what I value and what my personal limits are would help me to respond and make decisions that I felt comfortable with in different situations. I would be able to approach a situation with more confidence and stick to what I had planned. I would be less likely to be caught off guard and have to react without having thought through the options and possible consequences.”

• • • • •

Teacher prompt: “Why is it important to get information from a credible source before making a decision about being sexually active? Why is this important for all students – including those with physical or cognitive disabilities?”

Students: “Having more information – and information that you can trust – helps you make better decisions for yourself. Taking time to get more information also gives you more time to think. Teens who consult a health professional before being sexually active are more likely to use protection, such as condoms, if they choose to be sexually active.” “Teens with physical or cognitive disabilities still need information about sexual health, just like everybody else. They may be dealing with different issues, like adapting sexual health information to their particular needs, or with variations on the same issues, like privacy and self-image.” (p. 215-216)

Karyn says: No change from 1998 curriculum. Decision-making around sexual behaviour and where to find support was addressed in grade 8 previously.

C1.5 Gender identity, sexual orientation, self-concept

“demonstrate an understanding of gender identity (e.g., male, female, two-spirited, transgender, transsexual, intersex), gender expression, and sexual orientation (e.g., heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual), and identify factors that can help individuals of all identities and orientations develop a positive self-concept”

Teacher prompt: “Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense or feeling of being male or female, which may or may not be the same as the person’s biological sex. It is different from and does not determine a person’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation refers to a person’s sense of affection and sexual attraction for people of the same sex, the opposite sex, or both sexes. Gender expression refers to how you demonstrate your gender (based on traditional gender roles) through the ways you act, dress, and behave. Gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation are connected to the way you see yourself and to your interactions with others. Understanding and accepting your gender identity and your sexual orientation can have a strong impact on the development of your self-concept. A person’s self-concept can develop positively if the person understands and accepts their gender identity and sexual orientation and is accepted by family and community. It is harder to develop a positive self-concept, however, if the way a person feels or identifies does not meet perceived or real societal norms and expectations or is not what they want, or if they do not feel supported by their family, friends, school, or community. A person’s self-concept can be harmed if a person is questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation and does not have support in dealing with their feelings of uncertainty. What kind of support do people need to help them understand and accept their gender identity and sexual orientation?”

Student: “Having role models that you can relate to – for example, people of similar ages or cultures – is important. So is having all gender identities and sexual orientations portrayed positively in the media, in literature, and in materials we use at school. Family, school, and community support are crucial. Additional help can come from trusted adults, community organizations, and school support groups such as gay-straight alliances.” (p. 21)

Karyn says: Again, and I know I keep coming back to it, Canada values and protects people of ALL gender identities and sexual orientations, and those values are reflected in our public school systems. If, at home, families wish to impart differing beliefs on their children, that is their right, but the public education system is morally and legally bound to uphold the law.

C2.4 Decision making, contraception

“demonstrate an understanding of aspects of sexual health and safety, including contraception and condom use for pregnancy and STI prevention, the concept of consent, and matters they need to consider and skills they need to use in order to make safe and healthy decisions about sexual activity (e.g., self-knowledge; abstinence; delaying first intercourse; establishing, discussing, and respecting boundaries; showing respect; need for additional information and support; safer sex and pleasure; communication, assertiveness, and refusal skills)”

Teacher prompt: “What do teenagers need to know about contraception and safer sex in order to protect their sexual health and set appropriate personal limits?”

Student: “Teenagers need to know about the benefits and risks of different types of contraception. They need to understand that the only 100 per cent sure way of not becoming pregnant or getting an STI, including HIV, is not having sexual contact. Those who choose to be sexually active also need to know which contraceptive methods provide a protective barrier against disease as well as pregnancy. Condoms provide protection against both pregnancy and STIs – but to be effective, they need to be used properly and used every time. Teenagers need to understand how important it is to talk with their partners about sexual health choices, consent, and keeping safe. They have to develop the skills to communicate their thoughts effectively, listen respectfully, and read body cues in these conversations. This takes practice.” (p. 218-219)

Karyn says: No change from 1998 curriculum. STI and pregnancy prevention were addressed in grade 8 previously.

C3.3 Relationships and intimacy

“analyse the attractions and benefits associated with being in a relationship (e.g., support, understanding, camaraderie, pleasure), as well as the benefits, risks, and drawbacks, for themselves and others, of relationships involving different degrees of sexual intimacy (e.g., hurt when relationships end or trust is broken; in more sexually intimate relationships, risk of STIs and related risk to future fertility, unintended pregnancy, sexual harassment and exploitation; potential for dating violence)”

Teacher prompt: “There are pros and cons to being in a relationship, and when you are in a relationship, there are positive things and drawbacks associated with different levels of intimacy. All of them are important to think about. There is a range of intimate behaviours that people can use to show caring and connection in a relationship, and different levels of risk associated with different levels of intimacy. Intimate behaviours can include holding hands, hugging, kissing, touching bodies and genitals, and engaging in sexual intercourse. When considering the level of intimacy that is appropriate for their relationship, what does a couple need to think about?”

Student: “Both individuals need to consider their own values and beliefs and treat each other’s choices and limits with respect. If one partner chooses to abstain from a sexual activity – for example, a person might want to kiss but not want to have any genital contact – the other partner needs to respect that decision. Both partners need to have the confidence and comfort level to talk about how they can show their affection while respecting each other’s decisions.”

Teacher: “Being intimate with someone includes having a good understanding of the concept of consent. What are some of the important things that we need to understand about consent?”

Student: “Consent to one activity doesn’t imply consent to all sexual activity. It is important to ask for consent at every stage. Consent is communicated, not assumed. You can ask your partner simple questions to be sure that they want to continue: ‘Do you want to do this?’ or ‘Do you want to stop?’ A ‘no’ at any stage does not need any further explanation.” (p. 220)

Personal Safety and Injury Prevention

C2.2 Assessing situations for potential danger

“demonstrate the ability to assess situations for potential dangers … and apply strategies for avoiding dangerous situations”

Teacher prompt: “What are some things to be aware of in a relationship to keep yourself and your partner safe?”

Student: “Thinking about what makes a relationship healthier is a good start. Things that could lead to danger in relationships include an uneven balance of power in the relationship and situations that involve alcohol or drugs. I can stay safer by defining my own limits, listening to my gut feelings, and letting others know what I am doing and where I am going. If something does not feel good or right, I need to have the confidence to tell the other person to stop immediately. And if someone tells me – verbally or non-verbally – to stop, I need to stop immediately.” (p. 217-218)

C3.2 Impact of violent behaviours; supports

“analyse the impact of violent behaviours, including aggression, anger, swarming, dating violence, and gender-based or racially based violence, on the person being targeted, the perpetrator, and bystanders, and describe the role of support services in preventing violence (e.g., help lines, school counsellors, social workers, youth programs, shelters, restorative justice programs, gay-straight student alliances)

Teacher prompt: “Gender-based violence includes any form of behaviour – psychological, physical, and sexual – that is based on an individual’s gender and is intended to control, humiliate, or harm the individual. When we say ‘gender-based violence’, we are often referring to violence against women and girls. Can you give me some examples?”

Student: “It can include physical assault in a relationship, sexual assault, or rape. It can also include things like having your rear end pinched in the hallway, having your top pulled down or lifted up, or being held down and touched.” (p. 219-220)

Karyn says: No change from 1998 curriculum. Violence in relationships was addressed in grade 8 previously.


My sincere hope is that EVERYONE – whatever their personal beliefs – will be able to get behind this updated curriculum. The previous curriculum was in DIRE need of updating – it was older than sexting AND marriage equality in Canada. It was older than both my children combined. It was older than my children’s BABYSITTER, for goodness sake. In researching for this post, I have also carefully read the 1998 curriculum document, which barely provided broad strokes of what teachers were required to cover. This new curriculum provides much more guidance for teachers, leaving much less space for personal biases to influence what they are teaching, and allowing parents to be much more confident that what they have read in the curriculum is what their children will receive in the classroom.

If you want more information than I’ve provided here, please refer to the original document. I have not altered the quotes in any way (aside from occasional ellipses, as previously explained). Please read any articles you come across, including this one, with a critical eye, carefully considering the author’s bias and reason for presenting the information in the way they have.

Let’s finally bring Ontario out of the dark ages when it comes to sex ed.

~ karyn










12 thoughts on “The sky is (not actually) falling! Highlights of the 2015 Ontario Sex Ed Curriculum

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  2. This is fantastic! I kind of want to move to Canada right now. Heck, it’s warmer than Boston, I might as well. Can I just note, though, that I’ve taught my own kindergartener up to grade three Canadian standards, and I’m pretty proud of that? 🙂

    • Lol – It’s probably not warmer today though I think you’ve got us beat right now in the snow department. The curriculum is being debated right now in provincial legislature and it’s ug-ly. People are the reason I hate people.

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  4. Your a fascist Marxist feminazi bike riding pinko and only someone like that would think this was a good thing.

    In all seriousness, this seems to be a contentious issue and it’s hard to understand why. Much to the disbelief of those who have drunk of the abstinence-only kool-aid, studies have clearly shown that kids delay sexual experimentation (and sex in general) and choose safer options when they do finally go ahead when they have been taught more about sex and contraception. But ideologues never let the truth get in the way of a story they can use as a wedge issue. It is, after all, impossible to teach a man something when his income depends on his not understanding it.

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