In September 2015, new Health and Physical Education curriculum was introduced in all Ontario schools:
Beginning in September 2015, each parent of an elementary child (Grades 1 to 8) will receive a letter providing information about the Human Development and Sexual Health topic in Ontario schools. A second letter, which is grade specific, will be sent home prior to the teaching of expectations addressed in the Human Development and Sexual Health topic of the Healthy Living Strand. This will enable parents/guardians to support their child with the learning of these topics and will also provide them time to contact the school principal if they require additional information.
Question #1: Can a student have an exemption from the health curriculum?
Halton District School Board is a publically funded board of education. As such, the Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1 to 8: Health and Physical Education (Revised 2015) is a required curriculum in all Ontario school boards. Boards of education do not have the authority to exempt students from the curriculum. In Ontario public education, human rights and social justice education are key parts of our educational philosophy embedded in our values education. The Ministry of Education has stated publicly that we will continue to value all families in our schools and promote equity and inclusive education. In consultation with individual parents, a school may be able to arrange some requests for accommodations for parts of the curriculum. Please see the process outlined below.
Parents/guardians who have a concern about any part of the health curriculum should follow the process below:
Read the curriculum and identify the specific topic within the curriculum that is causing concern;
Record the specific expectations that are at issue;
Contact the school principal to discuss these specific expectations.
Upon receipt of the concern, the principal will review the concern and will work with the parent to explain the context of the learning and how the curriculum connects to student cognitive, emotional, social and physical development as well as their mental health and resilience. The principal will attempt to provide an accommodation to that part of the Human Development and Sexual Health topic of the Healthy Living Strand. Exemptions to the entire health curriculum or the entire Healthy Living Strand would pose challenges to:
In cases where parents believe parts of the curriculum challenge their religious rights, they should use
the Faith Accommodations letter when sharing their concerns with the principal.
Question #2: How will parents know when certain topics are being taught?
Beginning in September 2015, elementary principals will send home a board developed letter that explains the Human Development and Sexual Health learning focus. A second letter, which is grade specific, will be sent home prior to the teaching of expectations addressed in the Human Development and Sexual Health topic of the Healthy Living Strand.
While this will give parents some advance information, it cannot guarantee that some topics may be addressed without the parent being aware. This could happen for two reasons:
The various topics in the health curriculum are addressed throughout the year in a number of different strands. Some of the topics are also integrated across subject areas throughout the year. In such cases, it is not always possible to predict which topics will occur in another area of study or at another time during the school year.
Many spontaneous conversations happen in classrooms as a result of student questions and teachers use their professional judgment to provide a balanced perspective valuing diverse points of view in their responses. Sometimes the answers to student questions may include reference to a part of the curriculum that a parent may have an objection to. Teachers will treat questions outside of the timing identified in the grade specific letter with care. However, without knowing in advance what questions students will ask, a teacher cannot guarantee that a health topic will not be addressed in a response to student questions.
Students are being taught to be critical thinkers and apply their learning in areas of problem solving. Topics which have been addressed earlier in the year often resurface as students move onto new topics. For these reasons, we cannot guarantee that a topic of parent concern will not come up in a classroom. Where possible, questions of a sensitive nature will be addressed personally between the student and the teacher.
Question #3: Will the school provide supervision for my child if I do not want them in the health class, or in the class for parts of the health program?
For safety reasons, we cannot guarantee that principals will be able to provide supervision for students whose parents wish them to attend school but remain outside of class for the health education program. As all parents are aware, students are required to be in the presence of a teacher while in attendance at school. We do not have additional staffing to provide such supervision. If a parent feels so strongly that they do not want their child in a class for a particular topic, they should:
Follow the process in Question #1;
Read the response to Question #2, above;
Consider alternate arrangements, under parent supervision, for the days they do not wish their child in class.
Question #4: If I keep my child home for portions of the health curriculum, what will happen to their assessment?
Students are responsible for all areas of learning that are addressed in any subject curriculum for their particular grade. From time to time, students are typically absent from school and they catch up on work upon their return. Sometimes, students have a sufficient number of tasks completed in the various strands that make up a subject, and they may not need all tasks completed to achieve an acceptable grade. As such, students who are absent have to expect it may be challenging for them to catch up, understand future lessons, and/or achieve a mark they are happy with. Teachers do not penalize students for absences, but they do expect they will do their best to achieve appropriately.