Safe Schools program needs changing
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Safe Schools program needs changing

There has been considerable discussion over the Safe Schools program and I am supportive of the State Coalition’s announcement last week that it will scrap the program in its current form and replace it with a broader anti-bullying program.

I am also supportive of the changes made recently by the Federal Government and opposed to the Victorian Government ignoring this and saying it will fund the program in its original form.

My comments are not based on being transphobic or homophobic – I am not - they are based on what I want for my children as a parent and what I think is appropriate for my school aged children – nothing more or less.

Let me be very clear in stating our schools should have a zero tolerance approach to bullying of anyone over things like race, gender, religion, sexuality or appearance. 

We live in a society where the suicide rate in the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community is too high. We all have a job to promote acceptance and better understanding. It is literally a case of life and death in some cases and we must all be part of the solution.

However, there are elements of the Safe Schools Program in its current form that as parent concern me, that I feel go beyond understanding and acceptance and into what I believe are parental responsibilities.

For example, some of the material I have read from the Safe Schools website relates to allowing students to freely use both boys’ and girls’ toilets – with respect I would not want my Year Seven daughter sharing the toilet with Year 12 males.

Neither do I think it is the responsibility of schools to have Year Seven students (aged 13) undertaking “gender diversity role-playing activities”, which is part of the program resources - and has been a major criticism of many parents.

The changes made by the Federal Government removed these elements as well as restricting certain materials including “OMG I'm Queer”, to one-on-one discussions between students and key qualified staff.

Students have every right to be safe from bullying and homophobia at school and we need to break down stigmas and discrimination associated with the LGBTI community.

My issue is, that having read some of the program material, I (and many others for that matter) believed the program overstepped the line from understanding, respect and acceptance to advocacy of certain lifestyles.

What initially sparked my concern is when I saw a video of the safe Schools Co-orindator, Roz Ward, who stating the following:

“… Safe Schools Coalition is about supporting gender and sexual diversity. Not about celebrating diversity. Not about stopping bullying. It’s about gender and sexual diversity. About same-sex attractive. About being transgender. About being lesbian, gay, bisexual – say the words – transgender, intersex. Not just 'Be nice to everyone. Everyone’s great'.”

Apart from her comments that it is about promoting certain lifestyles, to hear it is “not about stopping bullying”, which was the very basis on which it was marketed, raises major concerns.

Interestingly, Ms Ward was recently sacked from a government role for a Facebook post where she labelled the Australian flag “racist” and called for it to be replaced with a socialist red ¬ensign.

It is important that our schools foster respect and tolerance in our children and we need a program that supports respect of others, no matter what their circumstances or lifestyles.

Victorian schools should provide genuine anti-bullying programs for students. This is why a Liberal Nationals Government will remove this program and replace it with an initiative that sends a strong message of mutual respect and anti-bullying.    We need to have a program without a fringe ideological agenda and a focus on a broader anti-bullying program that teaches kids to respect everyone and where parents are engaged.

June 6, 2016