Administrative Procedure 207: Exemption from Instruction
R.R.O. Reg. 298: Operation of Schools, General; Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Section 15); Ontario Human Rights Code; Education Act
Ministry of Education Policy/Program Memorandum (PPM) 162 Exemption from Instruction Related to the Human Development and Sexual Health Expectations in The Ontario Curriculum: Health and Physical Education, Grades 1-18, 2019; The Ontario Curriculum: Health and Physical Education, Grades 1-8, 2019; Form 207A Exemption Form
The Ontario Ministry of Education released PPM 162 on August 21, 2019 regarding exemption from instruction related to the Human Development and Sexual Health Expectations in The Ontario Curriculum: Health and Physical Education, Grades 1-8, 2019. The purpose of the memorandum was to inform school boards that they must develop and implement a policy or procedure that allows for students to be exempted, at the request of their parents, from instruction related to the Human Development and Sexual Health expectations found in Strand D of The Ontario Curriculum: Health and Physical Education, Grades 1-8, 2019. Parent(s) refers to parent(s)/guardian(s) throughout this Administrative Procedure.
2.0 Conditions for Exemption from Instruction related to the Human Development and Sexual Health Expectations (Grades 1-8)
2.1 For students to be exempted from instruction on an individual basis, the following conditions will apply:
- Exemptions are limited to instruction related to the Human Development and Sexual Health expectations found in Strand D of The Ontario Curriculum: Health and Physical Education, Grades 1–8, 2019. Students will not be exempted from instruction related to any other expectations in this curriculum or related to expectations in other curriculum subjects;
- Exemptions will be granted only for instruction related to all the Human Development and Sexual Health expectations in a student’s grade, and not for instruction related to selected expectations or groups of expectations;
- References to human development and sexual health made by teachers, board staff, or students outside the intentional teaching of content related to the Human Development and Sexual Health expectations are not included in the exemption policy/procedure;
- There will be no academic penalty for an exemption; and,
- There will be no assessment, evaluation, or reporting of exempted students’ achievement of Human Development and Sexual Health expectations in their particular grade. Exempted students’ grade in health and physical education will be determined on the basis of the overall expectations in Strand D of the curriculum, without consideration of the specific expectations under Human Development and Sexual Health.
3.0 Notice and Communications
3.1 Every elementary school is required to:
- Notify all parents at least twenty school days before the start of the period of instruction related to the Human Development and Sexual Health expectations to inform them that they can choose to have their child or children exempted from instruction;
- Provide all parents and guardians with the Information Letter (Appendix A), list of all Human Development and Sexual Health expectations by grade and an Exemption Form (Form 207A);
- Inform parents of the date by which the completed exemption form or written request must be submitted in order for their child to be exempted from instruction; and,
- Make clear that, in the case of an unforeseen event, schools have the authority to move the period of instruction to a later date in the school year and must give notice of the change to parents as soon as reasonably possible.
4.1 Every elementary school will allow students to be exempt from instruction related to the Human Development and Sexual Health expectations without academic penalty when a request for an exemption has been made from a parent in writing.
4.2 Classroom teachers and/or principals will acknowledge the receipt of exemption forms from parents.
5.0 Supervision of Exempted Students
5.1 Every elementary school will offer the following options for supervision of students:
- To remain in the classroom during the exemption period without taking part in instruction in Human Development and Sexual Health, and to be assigned work or activities by the teacher that are unrelated to Human Development and Sexual Health;
- To leave the classroom for the duration of the instruction and remain in the school under supervision. The student’s activities during the exemption period will be at the discretion of the teacher or principal. The supervision of the student will be determined by the principal; or,
- To be released into the care of the parent or the parent’s approved designate.
6.0 Roles and Responsibilities
6.1 Parents are the primary educators of their children with respect to learning about values, appropriate behaviour, and ethno-cultural, spiritual, and personal beliefs and traditions, and are their children’s first role models.
6.1.1 Parents must be informed of the school board policy/procedure that allows for students to be exempted, at their parents’ request, from instruction related to the Grade 1-8 Human Development and Sexual Health expectations.
6.1.2 Parents must submit a completed, signed Exemption Form (Form 207A) one week prior to the planned instruction so that appropriate planning can be organized for their child.
6.2 Teachers are responsible for using appropriate and effective teaching strategies to help students achieve the health and physical education curriculum expectations.
6.2.1 To increase their comfort level and their skill in teaching health and physical education and to ensure effective delivery of the curriculum, teachers are expected to reflect on their own attitudes, biases, and values with respect to the topics they are teaching and seek out current resources, mentors, and professional development and training opportunities, as necessary.
6.2.2 Teachers will communicate with all parents/guardians at least twenty (20) school days before the start of the period of instruction related to the Human Development and Sexual Health expectations.
6.2.3 Teachers will provide each parent/guardian the information letter and Exemption Form (Form 207A) allowing parents to submit a written request for exemption from instruction related to the Grade 1-8 Human Development and Sexual Health Expectations in Strand D.
6.2.4 Teachers will acknowledge receipt to each parent/guardian who submits an Exemption Form (Form 207A).
6.2.5 Teachers will collaborate with principals to provide the supervision choice as indicated by the parent/guardian for students who are exempted from instruction.
6.3 Principals will work in partnership with teachers and parents to provide support for the successful implementation of the health and physical education curriculum by emphasizing the importance of the curriculum within the framework of a healthy, safe, inclusive and accepting school.
6.3.1 Principals will support classroom teachers in providing the required communication to inform parents about possible exemption from instruction related to the Grade 1-8 Human Development and Sexual Health expectations.
6.3.2 Principals will collaborate with classroom teachers to provide the supervision choice as indicated by the parent/guardian for students who are exempted from instruction.
Appendix A - Information Letter
Below are details on what students will learn about human development and sexual health (Grades 1-8) and why these concepts are being taught at certain age levels. (Ontario Ministry of Education, August 2019)
When children know how to care for and use the correct names of their body parts, they build understanding and respect for themselves and their bodies and can communicate clearly and ask for help in case of illness, injury or abuse.
Students will learn:
- to identify body parts, including genitalia, by their proper names;
- to use positive language when describing their bodies;
- about their senses and how they function; and
- basic good hygiene habits (for example, washing your hands, using tissues).
Helping children to understand that their bodies will change (for example, losing baby teeth) can help them:
- prepare for and adjust to those changes;
- appreciate what their bodies are able to do and perceive them positively; and
- communicate about these changes with a trusted adult if they ever feel confused.
Students will learn:
- the basic stages of human development (infancy, childhood, adolescence) and related body changes;
- good hygiene habits for oral health (for example, brushing your teeth, flossing, visiting the dentist regularly); and
- to appreciate what their bodies can do.
To foster healthy relationships, students will learn what healthy relationships look like. Students also learn about what makes them unique and how to show respect for all.
Students will learn:
- about characteristics of healthy relationships and consent (for example, accepting differences, listening, stating and respecting personal boundaries,
- being respectful, being honest, communicating openly);
- describe ways to respond to bullying and other challenges (for example, peer pressure, being left out);
- about factors and habits that can affect physical and emotional development (for example, safe environment, caring adults, feeling like you belong,
- appreciating what your body can do and building a healthy body image, sleep, food, physical activity);
- how visible differences (for example, skin, hair and eye colour, clothing, physical ability) and invisible differences (for example, learning abilities, cultural values and beliefs, different types of families) make each person unique; and
- ways of showing respect for differences in others.
Today, children enter puberty earlier: on average, girls enter puberty between the ages of 8 and 13 and boys enter puberty between the ages of 9 and 14. Learning about puberty before students may fully experience it helps prepare young people for changes in their bodies, emotions and social relationships.
Students will learn:
- the physical changes that happen during puberty, and the emotional and social impact these changes can have on a developing child; and
- how personal hygiene needs may change during puberty (for example, the increased importance of regular bathing).
By Grade 5, students have developed some self-awareness and coping skills, and have also learned critical thinking and reflective skills. Puberty can be stressful and helping students to understand changes in their bodies can help them cope. Students will also continue to learn the importance of showing acceptance and respect for themselves and others, including those who may be entering puberty earlier or later than their peers.
Students will learn:
- about factors that may affect the development of a person's understanding of themselves and their personal identity, including their sexual orientation (for example, body image, self-acceptance);
- about the reproductive system, and how the body changes during puberty;
- about the process of menstruation and sperm production; and
- to describe emotional and interpersonal stresses related to puberty.
As children grow older and enter adolescence, understanding how they and their peers may be affected by the many changes they are experiencing helps them build a healthy sense of who they are. By Grade 6, students have developed more self-awareness and coping skills, as well as critical thinking and reflective skills, to solve problems and examine issues. They will apply these skills to learning about stereotypes and assumptions. By examining and challenging these stereotypes and assumptions, they continue to learn about respect for others, and build self-confidence to build a foundation for healthy relationships.
Students will learn:
- an understanding about the impacts of viewing sexually explicit media, including pornography;
- the physical, social and emotional changes that may occur in adolescence (for example, body growth, skin changes, increasing influence of peers, increased intensity of feelings) and how students can build a healthy foundation for relationships;
- to make decisions in their personal relationships that show respect for themselves and others, recognizing the importance of consent and clear communication;
- how stereotypes — and assumptions about gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, culture and abilities — can affect how a person feels about themselves, their feelings of belonging and relationships with others; and
- appropriate ways to respond to and challenge assumptions, stereotypes, homophobia and racism.
Students need information and skills to make sound decisions about their health and well-being before they face a situation where they may need that information. Research has shown that teaching about sexual health and human development does not increase sexual behaviour and can actually prevent risky activity.
Students will learn:
- the importance of having a shared understanding with a partner about: reasons for delaying sexual activity until they are older, the concept of consent and how to communicate consent, and the need to clearly communicate and understand decisions about sexual activity in a healthy relationship;
- to identify common sexually transmitted and blood borne infections (STBBIs) and describe their symptoms;
- how to prevent STBBIs and avoid becoming a parent before they are ready, including delaying first intercourse and other sexual activities until they are older, and using condoms and other forms of protection consistently;
- about the physical, emotional, social and psychological factors to consider when making sexual health decisions (for example, the risk of STBBIs or of becoming a parent before they are ready, emotional readiness, sexual orientation, moral and religious considerations, cultural teachings, and impact on other relationships); and
- how relationships with others and sexual health may be affected by physical and emotional changes in puberty and adolescence.
Students continue to build their understanding of factors that support positive, healthy choices, including building a deeper understanding and appreciation of themselves and their identity. Students are also exploring healthy ways to engage in evolving and new relationships.
Students will learn about:
- things that could affect someone's ability to make safe and healthy decisions about sexual activity;
- sources of support with respect to sexual health (for example, parents, health professionals, in-school resources, local community groups and religious, spiritual, and cultural leaders);
- gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, and to identify factors that can help all young people to develop positive personal identities;
- abstinence, contraception and consent in order to make safe and healthy decisions about sexual activity; and
- benefits, risks and drawbacks associated with relationships involving different degrees of sexual intimacy.
(Ontario Ministry of Education, August 2019)
Issued November 2019