The following is a statement by Education Minister Laurel Broten sent in response to questions about a lawsuit filed by a father against the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board on Friday, Sept. 7th. The board has refused the father’s repeated requests since 2010 that his children be allowed to withdraw from controversial classes on sexuality.

Ontario’s publicly funded schools are places where students from all backgrounds, creeds, colours and beliefs come together to learn, play and grow. Our diversity is one of the reasons our schools are among the best in the world. At each of those schools, our kids study together from the same curriculum, whether it’s a school in Niagara or Nipissing, Toronto or Timmins.

We’ve embedded a number of key components right across the curriculum – including topics like financial literacy, environmental stewardship, and inclusive and equitable education. That means that it’s not just on one day that students are learning about how to be more environmental conscious or how to be more accepting and inclusive. These perspectives and concepts are integrated and embedded across all curricula so that learning may be built and reinforced in a variety of age and grade appropriate contexts. This integrated and cohesive approach helps students make meaningful connections as they learn and ensures that all students are reflected in the curriculum. It also helps to prepare students for success in our knowledge-based, global economy.

In the case of health and physical education, the secondary Health and Physical Education curriculum states that on receiving a written request of a parent or student aged 18 or over, a student may be excused from a component of that curriculum.  An equivalent component of work in health and physical education will then be scheduled for the student.

Boards have the autonomy and flexibility to make accommodations based on individual requests, on a case by case basis.

We would encourage parents with questions or concerns about what’s happening in the classroom to speak with the teacher, the school, or with their local trustee. We’re confident that by working together they can address their concerns locally.

We will continue to support a province-wide curriculum, and local approaches to religious accommodation.