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BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - 7 SEPTEMBER: Security forces take security measures during a protest against new sexual education methods at schools in Brussels, Belgium on 7 September 2023. Expert teams will go to schools as part of the EVRAS program to give students a sexual, affectional, and biological education via animations. The project, which will be adopted in parliament Thursday, targets 85,000 students in the French-speaking Wallonia region and 25,000 in Brussels. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Arsonists Hit Belgian Schools in Protest of Sex Education Program

Belgian authorities are investigating a series of arson attacks on schools in protest against a new mandatory sex education course.

So far, eight schools have been targets of arson or graffiti against the Education in Relational, Affective, and Sexual Life (EVRAS) program, which is based on a 300-page guide some groups have criticized for its sexual content, Reuters reported.

Belgian education minister for the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, Caroline Désir, condemned the attacks, calling them acts of “extreme brutality.” Meanwhile, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that he will seek help from government experts on extremism to investigate and respond to the attacks.

“In a democracy like ours, we will never allow our schools to be a target,” De Croo said. “We live in a country of tolerance, and tolerance means we can have a debate, different points of view, but it can never lead to violence, especially in places frequented by our children.”

Approximately 1,500 people assembled in Brussels yesterday to protest the educational program, which requires four hours of training for students aged 11 to 12 and 15 to 16, intended to help them develop their interpersonal relationship skills and sexual lives. The program has been available for all age groups for decades, but until now it was not compulsory, the Associated Press reported.

Désir tried to calm tensions and rumors about the educational program, saying, “I would like to call on everyone to calm down and try once again to cut through the lies circulating about the EVRAS system. No, it does not prepare a pedophile system. No, it doesn’t plan to make children want to change gender. No, it doesn’t plan to teach children how to engage in sexual activities.”

De Croo explained that the program is “not new; it’s the basis of sexual health, but also the basis for our children to be aware of their rights and (physical) integrity.” 

De Croo asked the body in charge of processing intelligence on “terror, extremism, and radicalization” to analyze the situation, and federal police have been asked to support local forces in the affected region, Wallonia.

No one has claimed responsibility for the fires set to six schools, and no one has been arrested. Two other schools in Wallonia were also vandalized. Damage from the attacks has been limited, The Brussels Times reported, but an investigation into a criminal conspiracy has been opened.