“I want to be the one to tell my child what’s going to happen”: Thorncliffe Park parents talk about sex ed

“I want to be the one to tell my child what’s going to happen”: Thorncliffe Park parents talk about sex ed

One year ago, the parents of nearly half the student population at Thorncliffe Park Public School kept their children home, as a way of protesting Ontario’s new sex education curriculum. To quell the outrage among residents of the predominantly Muslim neighborhood, the school began teaching a less explicit version of the curriculum to its first graders. Although the modified lessons make small concessions (like referring to genitalia as “private parts” rather than by their actual names), some Thorncliffe Park parents still worry that sex ed goes too far. We spoke to a few of them during the first week of school.


Urooj Beensh

30, doctor with a five-year-old child who attends Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy

“Of course I am concerned. Maybe they think the way they are going to teach a child is right, but I want to be the first one to tell my child what’s going to happen. I know my child better, and I should be the one who puts things in context. I don’t want to overwhelm her, but at the same time, I also want to tell her there are ways that our community is a little bit different than the usual Caucasian Torontonian community.”

Have you considered taking your child out of public school?
“I have considered taking her to an Islamic school. I haven’t done it yet because she’s not in Grade One until next year.”


Ibrehim Ibrehim

44, public relations professional with eight children, two of whom—a six-year-old and an eight-year-old—attend Thorncliffe Park Public School

“If my children ask me questions about sex, I don’t want to answer them. This is what I am worried about. My sister, brother and I didn’t have this education in Eritrea and Saudi Arabia, but we are fine. We live without problems.”

Have you considered taking your children out of public school?
“I have many friends who have taken their children to Islamic schools, but I won’t do that. I don’t know if children studying about sex is good or not, but I believe that the government works for what is better for our children. I believe that.”


Irfan Muhammad

32, IT consultant with two children, including a four-year-old who attends Fraser Mustard Learning Academy

“We should not ignore the curiosity element in our kids. When they get exposed to this information at such an early age in a public setting like a classroom, they are going to practice things, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them. We cannot just ignore this fact. It does not mean that people living in this area are running from sex education, but we feel it is the responsibility of the parents to teach this stuff to their kids when they are at least 14 to 16 years old.”

Have you considered taking your child out of public school?
“I am thinking about sending my daughter to an Islamic school. Teaching children about body parts in Grade One is okay, but as you move on to the next grades, the information is going to get more explicit, and that’s where the major concerns come from. One of the new parts of the curriculum talks about masturbation. I don’t think that’s very appropriate.”


Kamran Sharaf

49, taxi driver with five children, including a nine-year-old (pictured) who attends Thorncliffe Park Public School

“It’s too early an age. They are forcing us and insisting we have to take this education. There are some things that are very bad, that even I haven’t heard of in my life—and I’ve been married since I was 20 years old. Children will explore and start experimenting at a young age, which I don’t think is a good idea. I teach enough at home, through religion and family traditions.”

Have you considered taking your child out of public school?
“I sometimes think of taking my daughter to an Islamic school, but I really can’t afford it. They have a lot of fees. The government is forcing us, so what can we do? We have no choice. We will definitely oppose this in the next election. The whole community will go against this. The only thing I have is a vote.”