The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has outlined their next steps regarding the Ontario government’s repeal of the 2015 sexual education curriculum this morning at a press conference in Toronto.
With school starting today, anxieties are high for parents and teachers alike regarding the curriculum.
ONNtv live streamed the conference, where Howard Goldblatt from Goldblatt Partners LLP, the organization representing the ETFO in court proceedings, and Sam Hammond, President of the ETFO, spoke and answered questions regarding the dynamics of the case to quash the anonymous parent ‘snitch line’ and return to the 1998 Health and Physical Education Curriculum.
Hammond summarized the proceedings, whereby ETFO is seeking an injunction against the government to “stop this unprecedented and unnecessary attack on kids and professional educators in Ontario.”
The key issues they described as being the goal above all else are safety, inclusion, and “preparing the students for the world of 2018, not the world of 1998.”
Goldblatt described the legal details of the proceedings, stating “The union’s position is that the government’s actions are in direct conflict with professional obligations that are enshrined within the Education Act and the Standards of Practice of the Ontario College of Teachers. When the government declared that the Health and Physical Education Curriculum would revert to an older edition, key topics were removed. The application raises significant issues of a Charter Rights violation which we look forward to have determined by the courts.”
Hammond stated that never in his history has a government acted to take educators backwards. ETFO believes that the government’s directive is also in conflict with the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
He believes reverting to an outdated curriculum runs the risk of increasing sexual violence, child exploitation, cyberbullying, the transmission of sexual disease, and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community and minorities. “It is 2018. You can’t just push all of that back into a closet to 1998, and we aren’t going to stand by and allow that to happen.”
In terms of the parent complaint line, or snitch line as it has been commonly referred to, Hammond stated that ETFO feels it is an unnecessary waste of public funds that could go directly to schools. Hammond also highlighted the fact that it ignores the systems already in place for parents and educators to deal constructively with issues at the school level. ETFO is equally concerned that the anonymous portal will become an outlet for bullies, hate and potentially a mechanism to out lesbian, gay, and bisexual educators, all of which are counter-productive to improving any situation.
“Take the snitch line down. It’s that simple,” Hammond said.
He encouraged the government to l”eave the 2015 curriculum in place until the government has done what it said it will do in terms of consultation. This is how it has been done for decades.”
He also stated that the Minister of Education Lisa Thompson and Premier Doug Ford have not been in touch with stakeholders since they were sworn in, “and we find this disturbing.”
“While ETFO pursues this legal action, we will continue to vigorously defend members who use their professional judgement to ensure they are creating safe and healthy classrooms for all students,” said Hammond.
ETFO also announced that it is seeking intervenor status in a case currently before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal filed in August by parents and students regarding the changes to the health curriculum.