Students at over one hundred schools across Ontario walked out of class on Friday afternoon to protest Doug Ford government’s move to repeal a modern sex ed curriculum and replace it with one that hadn’t been updated since 1998.
About 100 high school students congregated in front of Parkdale Collegiate Institute in Toronto, many wearing purple T-shirts and some with rainbow flags draped over their shoulders.
“Sex ed saves lives!” they chanted.
“We were taught what consent means and we don’t consent to FORCED ignorance,” said one sign. “1998 called, they want their curriculum back,” read another.
The walkouts are part of a province-wide day of action called #WeTheStudentsDoNotConsent, planned in response to the provincial government scrapping a revised sex ed curriculum, introduced by the Liberals in 2015, and reverting back to the one that was in place before, while the government undergoes consultations.
The previous curriculum does not cover topics like consent, sexting, or LGBT issues.
“We heard a lot about the sex ed changes over the summer, and a lot of it had to do with the erasure of LGBT identities,” said grade-11 student Ollie Catete, who organized Parkdale’s walkout. “And we don’t think that’s right. We don’t think that abstinence can replace consent. Our education is ours and not our parents’ or our politicians.”
The students are also protesting the cancellation of planned rewrites of the curriculum, recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which would’ve ensured more content about Indigenous people.
Opponents of the curriculum, who claim the Liberals did not do enough to consult parents, objected to sections that addressed topics including same-sex relationships, gender identity and masturbation.
“I think the chant we were saying earlier, that sex ed saves lives is so true,” said Catete, who identifies as LGBT. “If they were to go forward with this curriculum, they could be at risk of harming children. If we’re not teaching kids about consent, what’s going to happen when they get older and don’t have a concept of what’s ok to do, what’s not ok to do?”
“If kids who, lets say, are transgender are not taught that that’s okay, I think we’re further alienating children.”
Photo of Parkdale Collegiate protest by Tamara Khandaker