Secondary teachers slam Doug Ford over comments on Pronouns in schools

September 13, 2023 – Joshua Freeman, CP24 Web Writer

The union representing Ontario secondary school teachers is slamming Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce for suggesting that public educators are trying to “indoctrinate” kids who decide to use different pronouns.

“OSSTF/FEESO resoundingly rejects statements made by Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce that attempt to manufacture false divisions between parents, educators, and students over issues of student privacy and gender expression,” the Ontario secondary school teachers federation (OSSTF) said in a statement released Wednesday.

The statement comes after Premier Doug Ford spoke at a Ford Fest event in Kitchener last week and commented on the debate over whether schools should have to inform parents if they decide to go by different pronouns in a classroom setting.

Ford said parents need to be informed when their children make a decision around gender expression.

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“It’s not up to the teachers. It’s not up to the school boards to indoctrinate our kids,” Ford said.

His comments came on the heels of Saskatchewan joining New Brunswick in legislating parental consent for students under the age of 16 who want to change their given names and/or pronouns at school.

Lecce said last month that “parents must be fully involved and fully aware of what’s happening in the life of their children,” particularly when it comes to “life-changing decisions.”

Lecce did also say that schools need to be safe spaces for kids and said that the teachers and school boards should take into account where there are “exceptional circumstances” in a home that could lead to potential harm for a child.

In their statement Wednesday, the union slammed both Ford and Lecce and said the comments put kids at risk. 

“These harmful comments disregard the rights and needs of students and demonstrate a profound lack of respect and understanding of the role of public education. Such comments have real-world consequences for many 2SLGBTQI+ youth and act as a form of erasure of the identities of 2SLGBTQI+ students across the province,” the OSSTF said.

“Supporting students through their decisions around gender expression is an important part of helping young people in their right to self determination. Denying students their autonomy to choose how they self-identify can affect their sense of self-worth and can cause emotional and social distress, leading to negative mental health outcomes, such as self-harm, bullying, and other forms of exclusion. In turn, this distress can adversely impact a student’s achievement and success in school.”

Critics have said a policy such as that brought forward in Saskatchewan forcing kids under 16 to obtain parental consent to use different pronouns could essentially force schools to out children to their parents at a difficult time for them.

The OSSTF said it will “vigorously defend its Members in exercising their professional judgement in creating safe schools and upholding the Ontario Human Rights Code” if the Ford government attempts to enact policy on the issue.

A recent opinion poll by the Angus Reid Institute showed that Ontarians think parents should be informed if their child decides to go by different pronouns at school, but are somewhat split on whther they should have to give consent.

Some 43 per cent of respondents said parents must both be informed and give consent of an identity change, while 34 per cent said parents should simply be informed. About 16 per cent of respondents said parents should neither be informed nor have a say. Seven per cent were unsure.

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