Ontario parents who support the province’s new sex education program are taking to social media to counter curriculum objectors.
A petition urging Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to stick to her guns on the plan has garned more than 23,000 signatures in little more than 48 hours.
The Facebook page People for Ontario’s Sex Ed Curriculum has nearly 10,000 followers and another, Muslims for Ontario’s Health and Physical Education Curriculum, nearly 400.
“There was so much negative stuff out there,” says Sam Mansour, who posted the petition on Change.org.
Earlier this week, tens of thousands of students were absent from school to protest the new program. That prompted the 27-year-old to act.
“These protests really pushed a lot of people to be negative: ‘What’s wrong with these parents?’ Zenophobic comments, sometimes. I thought, whoa, this is not true of the entire community,” Mansour tells Yahoo Canada News.
“I think it’s a misrepresentation of Ontarians. I think it’s a misrepresentation of visible minorities. I think it’s misinformation about what kids actually feel about the education, let alone parents.”
He wanted to show that there is a lot of support for the curriculum change. The petition is a letter thanking Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for the updated sex education program.
“Many ill-informed voices are taking over the social media sphere. Fueled by a ridiculous protest to pull kids out of school, there is an attempt to persuade public opinion and roll us back to a curriculum made before most of us had access to the internet,” it says.
“What’s at stake here is our kids learning the body of scientific and psychological knowledge we’ve researched and gained in the past two decades.”
A volunteer receptionist at the Hassle-Free sexual health clinic in Toronto for the past two years, Mansour says he has seen first-hand the misinformation that’s out there.
“These are basic life skills,” he says.
Objections come from a range of cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds, says Charles McVety, one of the most outspoken critics of the new program.
“I’m not against sex education. I believe it’s an important part of a child’s development. But I am against radical sex education and this is as radical as it gets,” Charles McVety, the evangelical Christian president of the Institute for Canadian Values and head of the Canada Christian College, told Yahoo News earlier this week.
The main concerns seem to be discussions about gender and sexual orientation, beginning in Grade 3.
One Toronto school that serves a largely Muslim community was all but empty on Monday.
But the founders of the Facebook page Muslims for Ontario’s Health and Physical Education Curriculum wanted to show support.
“We are committed to making schools safer spaces for young people to honour all aspects of their racial, ethnic, linguistic, religious, sexual, gendered, class, status and family backgrounds and identities,” it says.
On Twitter, the hashtag #SupportSexEd is attracting attention, including a campaign from Planned Parenthood Toronto that proclaims, “Not everyone can talk about it at home.”
Mansour says he has three goals for his own campaign: to show support for the sex ed curriculum, to dispel the myths about the program and to prompt a respectful discussion about the issue.
“We aren’t attacking the opponents because that will shut down the conversation,” he says. “I’m very optimistic that if we bust these myths, the people that are opposing it will hopefully see our perspective.”
Ultimately, he’d like the debate to end.
“This seems to be just a huge distraction from the real issues of the day,” he says.