Friday, March 4, 2011

Parent Central: Is Dalton McGuinty afraid to talk about sex?

A Parent Central/Toronto Star article wonders if Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is afraid to change the Health curriculum that deals with sex education.  Conservative groups do not want sexual orientation to be discussed at primary and junior grades (kindergarten to grade-six).  Social conservatives and teachers must know that teachers already have the right to discuss sexual orientation at any grade in any subject because the Ontario Human Rights Code includes prevention of discrimination of services based on sexual orientation.


Perhaps social conservatives tolerate Black History Month, Chinese New Year, South Asian Month, Hanukkah, disability awareness activities, general multicultural activities, and boys and girls track and field.  They cringe when something so gay as sexual orientation is mentioned in the classroom.  However, the social conservative must know that because of the Ontario Human Rights Code, teachers do have the right to discuss topics that includes sexual orientation at any grade just like they can include discussions about race, gender, ethnicity, and religions.  Currently, most public school teachers do not exercise that right.

Teachers do act in loco parentis where teachers have the authority of a parent in a classroom.  Teachers decide in the best interests of their students as a parent would decide in the best interests of their children.  If teachers to wish to discuss sexual orientation with their students, it is extremely unlikely that they would discuss particular sexual activities between same-sex couples.  In the primary grades, class discussions may occur after a teacher reads a story about two daddy penguins, two moms, or a sissy duckling.  Discussions may include different kinds of families.  There may be a discussion about the use of the word "gay." as in "That's so gay!"  Primary students do use this phrase.

Concerned parents may wish to ask the teacher to inform them if discussions or a story being read about sexual orientation may take place so that they can withdraw their children from the classroom for the day or period.  As mentioned previously, a teacher acts as a "parent in the classroom" and he/she is a professional.  The teacher does not need to have parents vetting/censoring books and other materials in the classroom.  A good teacher may mention to the parents through a monthly class newsletter units of study that will take place.  However, the teacher does not need to list specific resources such as books about sexual orientation or other topics.

Social conservatives, teachers, and students must know that the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not a half-right, but a full-right like the other rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code.  While parents, teachers, and students do need to have good relationships, everyone must know that public schools serve the public good.  They are microcosms of society.  If we do not discriminate based on sexual orientation outside our schools, then we must not discriminate based on sexual orientation within our schools.

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