The Canadian Press
TORONTO–Ontario government lawyers say the repeal of a modernized sex-ed curriculum does not discriminate against an 11-year-old transgender girl challenging the move, arguing teachers still can address topics like gender identity even though such issues no longer are a mandatory part of the lesson plan.
Government lawyers said in closing arguments Friday that the case before Ontario’s human rights tribunal does not prove the province is discriminating against certain students.
Michael Dunn said the teachers can use their own professional judgment and include issues like gender identity during lessons without requiring specific curriculum instructions on the topics.
“Inclusivity is baked in,” Dunn said, adding school boards, administrators, and teachers are given a broad mandate by the province to teach in that way.
Lawyers for an elementary teachers’ union, however, said educators have been reluctant to address issues like gender identity in the classroom ever since the curriculum repeal.
“The government has created a climate of fear, a chill, or at the very least confusion over what is permissible to teach,” argued Adriel Weaver, a lawyer for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.
The government also has not issued a formal directive to teachers on how to address issues like gender identity with students and that makes doing so “a professionally-risky endeavour,” she noted.
The case before the tribunal was launched in August by the sixth-grader identified only as AB, and focuses on the impact of the curriculum repeal on LGBTQ students.
Lawyers for the girl have said the government has put their client at a disadvantage since gender identity no longer is a mandatory part of the curriculum.
They’ve asked that the scrapped version of the document be reinstated while a new lesson plan is developed.
Dunn said the interim curriculum brought in last year, which is based on a version from 1998, was not negatively affecting the girl’s schooling.
“There is no link between the 2018 curriculum document and any negative impact on AB’s education,” he noted.
The Progressive Conservative government announced last summer that it was scrapping the updated version of the curriculum brought in by the previous Liberal regime in 2015.
That document included warnings about online bullying and sexting but opponents, especially social conservatives, objected to the parts of the plan addressing same-sex marriage, gender identity, and masturbation.
A new curriculum currently is being developed.
Lawyers for the elementary teachers’ union said the curriculum repeal, combined with a government website that allows parents to report teachers they feel are not complying with the lesson plan, have contributed to anxiety amongst educators.
The tribunal is expected to decide on the case in the spring.