“Don’t go back to ’98” is the message some Westgate Collegiate students are sending this afternoon, as they walked out of classes.
Grade 10 student Faith Bruley was among a few dozen students protesting the return to the 1998 health and sex education curriculum, saying she wants students to feel like they can talk openly about topics not covered in the older lesson plan like consent, LGBTQ+ identities, and same-sex marriage.
“Everyone should be able to feel like what they want to be, and everyone should have the right to do what they want to do, and not have it taken away from them because somebody wants to have the old curriculum back,” Bruley says.
“They should be able to feel open with everything, and not have to hide away and feel like they should be scared of who they are.”
The Westgate student adds she would consider more protests if the curriculum isn’t changed.
Grade 10 student Mitchell Hanna-Gardiner helped organize the protest outside the school.
He says he met up with a couple of other students after he heard others arguing in the hallways about the rollback to the 1998 lesson plan.
Hanna-Gardiner echoes Bruley’s suggestion the walkouts may continue, but points out it’s not a sure thing.
He says today’s protests were cleared with the school’s principal, who he says made it clear she had to stay neutral on the issue, but allowed the walkout.
However, students won’t be punished for skipping class to picket–Hanna-Gardiner notes the principal told teachers students would only have to make up any work or tests they missed.
He says it’s important to make their concerns known.
“The curriculum has changed so much, it’s already hard enough for teachers to keep up. And if they want to change it again, it’s just going to keep pushing things back, it’s going to mess up the students[…] people are going to get confused.”
He also wants to support the teachers who are being directed to teach the older curriculum, noting “They’re going through a lot, too.”
They got a positive reaction from drivers along James Street–Hanna-Gardiner adds he saw the same vehicle pass by “five or six times” while honking in support of the students.
“People have dropped off coffee and donuts, and they’re cheering us on.”
The demonstration is part of a set of province-wide student protests.