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Questions and Answers: Sexual Orientation in Schools


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First published in 1994 and revised in 2003 and 2008, the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education (Guidelines) were developed to assist professionals working in the area of health promotion and sexual health education in programming which supports positive sexual health outcomes. Feedback from a national evaluation of the Guidelines indicated the need for companion documents to provide more detailed information, evidence and resources on specific issues. In response, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) identified a ‘question and answer’ format as an appropriate way to provide information to educators and other professional working with school-aged populations. The Questions and Answers styled documents are intended to cover a range of topics reflecting current issues in sexual health education with school-aged populations, are evidence-based and use inclusive language as reflected in the Guidelines.

This document, Questions & Answers: Sexual Orientation in Schools, is intended to address the most commonly asked questions regarding the sexual orientation of youth in school settings. The goal of this resource is to assist educators, curriculum and program planners, school administrators, policy-makers and health professionals in the creation of supportive and healthy school environments for youth struggling with issues of sexual orientation.


The Public Health Agency of Canada would like to acknowledge and thank the many contributors and reviewers who participated in the creation of Questions & Answers: Sexual Orientation in Schools. The development of this document was made possible through the valuable input provided by experts working in the field of sexual health education and promotion across Canada, including the members of the Sexual Health Working Group of the Joint Consortium for School Health. A complete list of the external reviewers can be found online.

In addition, the Public Health Agency of Canada would like to acknowledge the staff of the Sexual Health and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Section, Centre for Communicable Diseases and Infection Control, for their contribution to the development of this document.


In 1996, the Canadian Human Rights Act formally included “sexual orientation” among the prohibited grounds of discrimination and in 2009, Canada marked the 40th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexual activity in Canadian law and legislation. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals (collectively, sexual minorities) now have the same rights and responsibilities as all Canadian citizens. In the span of those forty short years, Canada has emerged as one of the most progressive Western countries in recognizing basic human rights of sexual minorities, including equal partner benefits, equal adoption and foster-parenting rights, non-discriminatory workplace policies, inclusive health care, and the legalization of same-sex marriage. Despite these measures of progress, individuals are still discriminated against on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientationFootnote 1.

QUESTIONING: A person who is unsure of his or her sexual orientation.

These Questions and Answers are designed to support the implementation of the Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health EducationFootnote 2. The Guidelines are based on evidence that broadly-based sexual health education should reflect the diverse needs and realities of all people in ways that are age-appropriate, evidence-based, scientifically accurate, rights-based, culturally sensitive, respectful and inclusive of sexual orientation and gender diversity. It is the view of the Guidelines that inclusive “sexual health education should be available to all Canadians as an important component of health promotion and services”Footnote 3.

These answers to frequently asked questions about sexual orientationFootnote 4 in Canadian schools are based on evidence-based research. This resource is targeted at helping curriculum and program planners, educators (in and out of school settings), administrators, policy-makers, and health care professionals implement the current Guidelines to ensure that:

  1. sexual health educational programming is inclusive of the pressing health, safety, and educational needs of sexual minority and questioning youth;
  2. the experiences of sexual minority youth are included in all facets of broadly-based sexual health education; and

  3. educators, administrators, and school board personnel are provided with a more thorough understanding of the goals and objectives of broadly-based and inclusive sexual health education.