Complaints from parents, teachers prompted review of gender policy: N.B. education minister

Education Minister Bill Hogan says age-appropriateness around discussing gender identity was one of the main concerns raised. (Government of New Brunswick - image credit)
Education Minister Bill Hogan says age-appropriateness around discussing gender identity was one of the main concerns raised. (Government of New Brunswick - image credit)

Education Minister Bill Hogan says a review of Policy 713 was prompted by hundreds of complaints from across the province, some with concerns about the age-appropriateness of teaching students about gender identity.

Speaking to reporters at the legislature Wednesday, Hogan revealed more details about what prompted his department to launch a review of the policy, in place since 2020, which details protections that must be offered in schools to students who identify as LGBTQ+.

He said he's heard concerns from both parents and teachers that the policy crosses into the realm of sex-education curriculum, raising questions about how the policy should be implemented and at what age students should be introduced to the topic of gender identity.

"I want to ensure that ... when we're teaching our curricula, that parents are informed and, you know, that we're not going places where children are not developmentally ready to be," Hogan said.

Hogan declined to say what he thinks is an appropriate age for students to be introduced to topics around gender identity.

"I don't know if they're being taught too early or not, and I think that's part of what I've asked for," he said. "How do these two things go together, and what's the scope and sequence?"

WATCH | Bill Hogan on sex education in schools:

Policy 713 lays out minimum requirements for school districts to create a safe, welcoming learning environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex and two-spirited students.

It says students have the right to self-identify and express themselves without fear of consequence, and teachers must create a school culture where the students "see themselves and their lives positively reflected."

The policy allows students to pick which pronouns apply to them and requires teachers to respect their choice. It lets them establish gender-sexuality alliance groups without requiring parental consent or notification.

It also says each school must have at least one gender-neutral bathroom.

On Monday, parents and teachers accused Hogan of caving in to hate after he revealed his department was reviewing the policy because of a backlash against the guidelines.

An attempt to roll back sex ed: Opposition

Speaking during question period in the legislature Wednesday, Liberal Leader Susan Holt accused the government of seeking to roll back sex education for LGBTQ+ students.

Holt suggested that the move was directed by Premier Blaine Higgs, and that new changes to the governance structure of district education councils were really about giving the premier free reign to interfere with the sex-ed curriculum.

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

"Now he's made changes to the DEC model, so that the premier can put his hands on middle school sex-education curriculum because the new model would not constrain that power," Holt said.

Speaking to reporters, Hogan said that assertion by Holt was false, but went on to say his department needs to look at the "scope and sequence" of certain curricula, including that of sex education, to see how it's being implemented.

"And to see how that matches with the with Policy 713 — if it does or if it doesn't — or if it's created confusion in the province amongst our teachers."