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Ontario Education Minister Calls for Parental Involvement in Student’s Gender and Pronoun Change

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says parents must be “fully involved” if a student wants to change their gender identity or pronouns at school, but stopped short of committing to a formal policy or legislation.

“Parents must be fully involved and fully aware of what’s happening in the life of their children. I mean, often there are health implications,” Mr. Lecce said at an Aug. 28 press conference, in response to a question about whether Ontario will bring in parental inclusion policies similar to those announced in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

“I think we have to respect the rights of parents, recognizing that these can be life-changing decisions,” said the education minister. “I think parents want to be involved so that they can support their kids, and I think that’s a really important principle that we must uphold.”

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Both Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have brought in policies upholding parental rights and requiring schools to seek permission from parents or guardians to change a child’s preferred name and pronouns used at school if they are under the age of 16.

Mr. Lecce would not go as far as to commit to his province bringing in legislation on the issue. “We’re simply making clear as a province that we believe parents should be fully involved, fully aware of what’s happening to their children,” he said. “These are significant changes, and they have a right to know.”

He said the province expects school boards to be “transparent with parents, as we always have.”

Mr. Lecce said the safety of the child must prevail both at home and at school. He noted that educators are “well versed on exactly what to do and who to turn to,” in those cases of “exceptional circumstances where there can be situations of potential harm to a child.”

Mr. Lecce, whose office did not respond to an Epoch Times request for comment by press time, said educators have a well-established protocol to ensure the safety of children.

“As an overarching value system, I really do believe that parents need to be fully aware, fully engaged, and school boards need to be transparent with parents. I mean, they are the legal guardians, they love their kids, they want to be aware of what’s happening in the life of their children, in their schools,” he said.

He was pressed by reporters on whether there would be a directive issued to school boards from the Ministry of Education on the subject. “Parents have a right to know and we will respect parental rights,” he responded. “We think boards must do the same.”

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has a written policy on accommodation for “transgender and gender non-conforming students,” which states that students can make requests regarding their “right to free gender expression and or gender identity.”

“All students, including transgender and gender non‐conforming students have the right to be addressed by a preferred name and pronouns corresponding to their gender identity. This is true regardless of whether the student has obtained a legal name or sex designation change,” states the policy.

“All students have a right to privacy; unless specifically directed by the student, schools must keep a student’s transgender/gender non‐conforming status confidential.”

The policy adds that “young students have the same rights to privacy and to have accommodations made on their behalf with or without their guardians’ knowledge.”

The TDSB did not return an inquiry about whether the government’s announcement about the increased importance of parental rights will impact the school board’s policy.

When asked about TDSB’s policy, Mr. Lecce replied, “We believe parents must be fully aware. We think that transparency is a strength, so we’re sending out that clear message, and we’re also reaffirming the importance of the right of parents to support their kids.”

He said the Ontario government’s priority is “making sure that school boards get back to basics,” and keeping parents “more informed.”

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