How safe is the Safe Schools Coalition Australia?
by Ros Phillips, National Research Officer, FamilyVoice Australia
Like most other Australians, I deplore all forms of school bullying, but I am deeply concerned about the controversial Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA) program, launched on 13 June 2014 for use by schools throughout Australia.
This program claims to be an anti-bullying program, to make "schools safer and more inclusive". However, it does not address the problems experienced by the vast majority of school children who are regularly bullied because of their body shape or size, school grades, race or ethnic background, religious beliefs or family income - as shown by a study of 105,000 students.
The SSCA program focuses only on the small minority of "same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse young people". It provides free resources, but only to help staff respond to "homophobia and transphobia", and to support and celebrate "gender and sexual diversity". Yet sexual orientation does not even rate among the top seven causes of bullying.
The rationale for the Safe Schools Coalition is that samesex attracted and transgender students have much higher rates of depression and suicide than opposite-sex attracted and non-transgender students. But obese students also suffer high rates of depression, to the point of suicide. Where are the programs for them?
The term homophobia literally means "an extreme, irrational fear of homosexuality" - but it is used to abuse and intimidate anyone who believes, with good evidence, that homosexual conduct carries serious health and other risks. For good reasons, the style book of Associated Press has told journalists to stop using the term.
The term transphobia is equally misused. A boy who feels like a girl is suffering from gender dysphoria (or confusion). It is a complex condition, and schools need great care in dealing with the tiny percentage of students who identify in this way. The condition is analogous to anorexia, when a dangerously thin child feels fat. Such children need compassion, but not reinforcement of their confusion. Hormone treatment and surgery can change a person's appearance, but cannot change their biological sex.
In reality, the Safe Schools Coalition program is thinly disguised propaganda to normalise homosexual behaviour and cross dressing among students at an age when some may be confused about their identity. It inappropriately sexualises the classroom. By encouraging students to "come out" as gay, lesbian or transgender, the program exposes students to serious physical and psychological health risks. Encouraging confused boys to use girls' toilets and change rooms (and vice versa) is inappropriate and could lead to problems with sexual harassment.
In Victoria, where the program was first developed in 2010 with funding from the Brumby Labor government, some high school students were told that they can find out if they are "gay" by "trying it";.
In New South Wales, a school participating in a similar pilot program pressured students to support same-sex "marriage" by signing a mural. Girls who wanted to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman were abused and bullied.
Puberty is an emotional time for many students who are still developing their sense of identity. Focusing attention on homosexuality is unhelpful at this time. Most teens who experience same-sex attraction become opposite-sex attracted in adulthood. They should not be falsely led to believe that their adolescent attractions are necessarily fixed and permanent. Students with current same-sex attractions should not be encouraged to embrace activity linked with serious health risks.
All students deserve a safe school environment, but the Safe Schools Coalition program is not the way to achieve it. Emphasising homosexual bullying tells other bullied students that the reasons they are mocked or abused are not as important, deepening their sense of injustice and despair. School communities should foster courtesy and respect for all other students, not just some.
Federal funding for the program of $8 million over four years was authorised by the previous Labor government, at the initiative of Senator Penny Wong. It would be far better to use this money to fund successful programs such as CASSE Peaceful Schools program or RULER, which address the underlying causes of all forms of bullying.
Note: References to research mentioned above are included in the FamilyVoice Open Letter to the Prime Minister (see www.fava.org.au). Pastor Peter Stevens, Victorian State Director of Family Voice Australia writes: Dear friends The 'Safe' Schools program being rolled out by our state and federal governments poses one of the greatest threats to children in our lifetime. "Virginity is whatever you think it is... I ended up...having two virginities, my first time with a chick, and my first time with a dude...". "Allow students to access a unisex toilet or the toilet of their choice..." (quotes from Safe Schools Coalition material). 'Safe' Schools normalizes homosexuality to teachers and vulnerable children. Can you please help me by:
1) Downloading our open letter to the PM - add your name and post to the Prime Minister, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600, or email it back to me (address below).
2) Have all your church friends fill one out too.
3) Please forward this email to as many people as possible.
We already have 10,000 letters but would like 40,000.
Thank you for standing with us to protect our children.
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