September 8, 2015

Letter from Director of Education Tony Pontes regarding the revised Health and Physical Education Curriculum

Translations of this letter are available at the bottom of the page.

Dear Peel District School Board Families,

Welcome back to a new school year! We are pleased that you have chosen the Peel District School Board as the place for your child to learn. I can assure you that the staff at the school will inspire success, confidence and hope in your child.

There has been a lot of media coverage about the revised Health and Physical Education curriculum. I know some parents still have concerns, and I wanted to write at the start of the year to let you know what we have done to prepare, and how we will involve you in the year ahead.

First of all, it is important to reinforce that the teaching of the Healthy Sexuality component of the curriculum is NOT new. It is something our skilled and professional staff have delivered since 1998. The curriculum we will deliver this year, however, is revised, and we want to make sure staff have everything they need to deliver the curriculum and parents have accurate information about the revised curriculum.

To support teachers, a summer writing team has worked hard to develop significant resources to support the  curriculum, including units and lesson plans for each grade, resources and teacher training. Our staff will have everything they need to continue to provide the curriculum with professionalism, sensitivity and care.

To provide time for parents to build an understanding of the curriculum, the Healthy Sexuality components will not be delivered in Peel elementary schools until the spring—likely after March Break. Also, to put this in context, this section of the curriculum is fairly small—there will likely be a handful of lessons this Spring to cover the Healthy Sexuality component—as little as two or three lessons in some grades.

We know parents want notice of when this will be talked about in class, and so we will now require all schools to send letters to parents at each grade level at least two weeks before we cover the Healthy Sexuality section of the curriculum. In October, we will also send home a detailed Parent Guide to provide factual, grade-by-grade, information about the revised curriculum.

Since we are teaching the revised Healthy Sexuality components in the Spring, there is no need for parents to submit letters at this point for Religious Accommodation. We will, of course provide such accommodation on an individual basis as defined in our operating procedure, but we would ask that requests not be submitted until the new year. Requests received before that point will be acknowledged but not responded to until the new year.

I do, however, want to be clear -- where the work in the classroom is about inclusion—whatever form that inclusion may take—based on any of the protected grounds in the Human Rights Code—we will not provide religious or any other accommodation.

What does this mean? Well, if we are talking about different kinds of families—a discussion that builds a climate of inclusion and safety—we will not allow religious accommodation to be used as a reason for a student to miss that lesson. That action is consistent  with the Ontario Human Rights Code, and with our values as a board. This is true not just regarding the Health and Physical Education Curriculum but also the other classroom discussions and school activities about inclusion during the school year. We are committed to equity and inclusion in all forms, and schools actively support that work throughout the year. 

As a board, we are committed to our values—and being inclusive is key. So, while a parent may choose to keep their child at home for parts of the curriculum, we strongly hope that they do not.  We want all students to be part of discussions that build respect and understanding, that help all students feel safe and respected.

Once again, welcome back. Thank you for choosing the Peel District School Board. We look forward to a great school year!

Tony Pontes

Director of Education

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