THE ‘SAFE SCHOOLS’ PROGRAM IS STILL SAFE


Safe Schools Brisbane Rally

After in-depth research, our senior reporter Rod Gardiner found that the Safe Schools debate is being used to the detriment of young gay people (LGBTIQ). There is a lot of misinformation out there being used by all sides of politics to point-score regardless of the hurt and damage this is causing our young people. Here is what he found:

The Safe Schools debate has turned into a lesson in how not to treat our vulnerable LGBTIQ youth.

Advertisements

And it’s time for the Cory Bernardis and George Christensens of this world to collectively pull their heads in.

Their spurious claims of victory over the “gutting” of the Safe Schools Coalition (SSC) are harming, and potentially killing, the very people for whom the program was designed – our vulnerable LGBTIQ youth.

And those on the other side of the political equation also need to take stock. The nationwide rallies protesting Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s proposed changes to the program are doing no-one any favours.

Carter Smith on ABC Q&A
Photo: Carter Smith on ABC Q&A

The resultant fallout of the political debate was encapsulated succinctly by queer student Carter Smith on ABC’s Q&A on Monday night.

“I think the problem is politicians are using young, innocent, in-pain children as political bullets. That is unacceptable,” he said.

“Kids are being hurt when they hear this entire debate about, ‘Oh, well, no we can’t really talk about that, it’s not really safe’. It is still creating the idea that they are different, that they are wrong, that they are not accepted.

“That is driving kids to hurt themselves, that is driving kids to kill themselves.”

WATCH VIDEO: of part of Carter Smith’s response below at bottom of page

Firstly, let’s make one thing clear: the SSC has NOT been “gutted”.

In his review, Professor William Louden from the University of Western Australia suggested only minor changes, deeming that for the most part the lessons and resources were “educationally sound and age-appropriate”.

Certainly, undoubtedly due to pressure from the ultra-conservatives within its ranks, the government went above and beyond Mr Louden’s recommendations.

But it’s not exactly the end of the world as the aforementioned Bernardis and Christensens would have you believe.

Advertisements

The major changes are:

* Restricted to secondary schools.
* Parental consent for student participation.
* The agreement of parental bodies to decide whether, and how, a school will participate.
* Amending the lesson in which Years 7 and 8 students imagine that they are attracted to the same sex and lessons in which students are asked to pledge how they will be an ally to an LGBTIQ friend.
* Redesigning a lesson about the biological processes behind intersex variation.
* Resources OMG I’m Queer, OMG My Friend’s Queer and Stand Out will only be available for one-on-one discussions between students and qualified staff.
* Removing all links and references to any non-government organisation from the Safe Schools material, including the Minus18 site.
* The positive step of moving the entire resource to the Australian government’s Safe Schools hub website, with the existing Safe Schools website used only as a contact point.

As for funding, it HAS NOT been “slashed” as those more concerned with political points-scoring than the welfare of our LGBTIQ youth would have you believe.

The program’s $8 million in federal funding does finish next year but, as Mr Birmingham explains, “it had never been intended for the funding to be extended but the anti-bullying content would ‘live on’ on the government’s Safe Schools Hub.”

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the SSC was designed specifically as “a national coalition of organisations and schools working together to create safe and inclusive school environments for same-sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families”.

In that regard, nothing has changed… other than the most important part, “working together”.

Just how effective the program will be is in the hands of those who matter most – the schools themselves, the parents of those attending school and the respective state governments.

Unlike the bullying politicians, for the sake of all our children let’s hope they can work together to foster harmony in our schools.

Less than 7% of schools in Australia have adopted the program. Sam Pidgeon, vice-president of the Queensland Teachers Union, stressed at a rally in Brisbane’s King George Square that our main challenge is to see that the Safe Schools program is rolled out to as many schools as possible across Queensland.

Ms Pidgeon said changes to the program were minimal and she would like to make it her mission to get at least two teachers in every Queensland school to undergo the Safe Schools training.

She also said it was imperative that our state government make a commitment to the permanent continuation of the program now that it’s created.