TORONTO - Bullying, cyberstalking, drug abuse and defibrillators are among the new subjects coming this fall to elementary school classrooms across Ontario.

The governing Liberals are forging ahead with almost all of their changes to the province's health and physical education curriculum, which hadn't been updated since 1998.

"About 90 per cent of the proposed health and physical education curriculum is going forward, and that relates to such issues as gym, fitness, healthy eating, drug abuse," said Frank Clarke, a spokesman for Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky.

Only the sex education portion of the curriculum — whose controversial reforms were scrapped in April after it raised the ire of parents and religious groups — will remain unchanged.

A public uproar over revisions that would have seen Grade 3 students learn about sexual orientation and masturbation broached in Grade 6 forced the government to ditch the changes it had publicly defended for days.

Premier Dalton McGuinty promised to consult more widely with parents before making any modifications to sex ed, but it's still unclear when that will happen.

"Right now, the ministry is basically reviewing the options for a broader consultation," Clarke said. "That's basically where we're at."

But parents can expect lessons on healthy eating, drug and alcohol abuse and even dating violence starting in September.

Lessons on eating healthy will start in Grade 1, when kids will be introduced to the Canada Food Guide and learn about different food groups. Grade 3 students will get a lesson on how local foods can expand the range of healthy eating choices, and Grade 5 students will learn how to read nutrition labels.

Grade 4 students will learn how to identify substances like tar and carbon monoxide in cigarettes, as well as various types of bullying and abuse.

The affects of alcohol use will be covered in Grade 5, and factors that can influence people to use drugs — such as television and peer pressure — will be taught in Grade 6.

Grade 7 students will get lessons on the benefits and dangers of using computers and other technologies, like cyberstalking and online gambling.

Grade 8 students will learn about defibrillators, as well as analyze the impact of violent behaviours — including race-based violence and dating violence — and learn how to prevent it.

The new curriculum also spells out that all students must spend 20 minutes a day doing some kind of physical activity.

That requirement has actually been in effect for the last couple of years, said Annie Kidder of People for Education, a parent-led organization.

Physical education isn't just about running around the track anymore, but a whole range of issues that kids need to understand, she said. Schools are the most effective places to reach them.

"It's really important that we be talking to them about a wide range of stuff when they're really young, so that we're thinking about our interactions with other people, and we're thinking about how we eat, and we're thinking about how to keep ourselves safe in all sorts of ways," Kidder said.

"So it's school as a part of society, as opposed to school sort of disconnected from society."

Sex education is a big part of keeping kids healthy, and it's sad that a "very small group" of people managed to convince the government to scuttle those reforms, Kidder added.

"Sometimes there's a tendency in a year before an election not to do anything that might be construed as controversial," she said.

"So I hope it's not just going to get left."

That's exactly what will happen, said NDP education critic Rosario Marchese.

The government is "utterly afraid" to move ahead with any reforms, he said.

"Instead of doing the right thing — which they had done — they've given that up because of a potential backlash from some sectors," he added. "And so they're going to stay with the status quo for as long as they can."

After trying to sneak in contentious sex ed reforms, the government should at least make an effort to get it right this time around, said Progressive Conservative Elizabeth Witmer.

"Moms and dads have the right to know what is contained in any curriculum, and any time a major change is made, they need to be informed," she said.

"And I think that's one thing this government isn't doing well."