The voices and actions of our youth, families, teachers, activists, and our communities working together and presenting a clear unified position helped prevent the elimination of critical topics like gender identity and sexual orientation in the recently announced Health and Physical Education Curriculum (2019). We want to thank our communities, especially youth, who joined our campaign, We Have Your Back Ontario, to advocate for inclusive education and policies.
However, we must also recognize that the expectation that all Ontario School Boards are required to create a policy allowing parents to exempt their children from instruction of the human development and sexual health education components is a step backwards that will significantly impact the safety of Ontario’s children and youth – especially queer, trans or questioning youth. We know that schools remain unsafe spaces for queer and trans youth who are at a 3-times higher risk of suicide than non-LGBTQ2S youth. This exemption policy will impact some of the most vulnerable children and youth in Ontario schools. This policy also circumvents existing pathways that parents and guardians can use when engaging with educators and schools.
At a time where social and systemic homophobia and transphobia persists, and our youth remain vulnerable to violence, discrimination and mental health issues, we need to make further progress towards a curriculum that meets the needs of our children. We will continue to advocate for meaningful change and for the safety and wellbeing of our children and youth. To everyone starting school soon, remember, we have your back.