OPINION | Wendy Francis, Australian Christian Lobby
Friday 12 February 2016
How safe are “safe schools”?
The media have this week turned their attention to the Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA). Billed as an anti-bullying resource, SSCA is a government funded program that supports gender diversity, sexual diversity and intersex issues. (
You’ll get no argument here against stopping bullying of any kind – schools should be a safe place for ALL students. No child should fear attending school, or dread school breaks in the playground. But it’s hard to find any anti-bullying teaching in the SSCA resources.
Parents and educators alike have instead been surprised to see mainstream media reports describing the actual content of the materials designed for primary and high school students.
It is a pervasive resource. The teacher’s manual says, “Whatever the subject, try to work out ways to integrate gender diversity and sexual diversity across your curriculum’’.
Despite adopting the program, the principal of Scotch College in Adelaide, John Newton, told The Australian newspaper that he does not approve of the lesson plan requiring children to imagine themselves in a same-sex relationship. “It feels like a ham-fisted attempt to change a culture” says Newton. His comment refers to the second lesson in the most recent resource, All Of Us, which is co-produced by SSCA and Minus18. The lesson plan expects children as young as 11 years old to have formed opinions on transgenderism, bisexuality and sexual diversity, and to let the entire class know where they stand.
All of Us is aimed at Year 7 and 8 students (ages 11-14). The student handout informs the children that their gender is not as simple as whether they are ‘male’ or ‘female’ but that everyone has their own gender identity. They are told that some people identify with both genders, and some don’t identify with either, and that it’s up to each individual to describe what gender identity fits them best.
According to the “All of Us” resource, asking a new parent whether their baby is a boy or girl is inappropriately reinforcing ‘heteronormativity’.
It describes sexual identity as “Who you love, like and hook-up with”. Minus18, the organisation who co-wrote “all of us”, uses the term “hook-up” with a crystal clear meaning on their website, which states: “So I done f*d up (the word is in full in the resource). Literally. One Grindr hook-up gone wrong, and that’s how I got myself some gonorrhoea.” These are 11-14 year olds.
The paragraph goes on to explain that contracting an sexually transmitted disease in this way is “no big deal.”
The Safe Schools Coalition tells children if they can’t access the Minus18 website they should go to their teacher and have it unblocked. Among other things, the site gives advice to girls who want to be boys on how to bind their chests whilst warning that the practice has the potential to be lethal . Boys who want to be girls are instructed how to tuck their testicles back inside the pockets of their abdomen, pull the penis backwards, in-between the legs, and that wearing too-tight underwear can help. Practices with known adverse health risks. (For more, click here).
The federal government has provided $8 million in funding for the Safe Schools Coalition. The Victorian government will require all state schools to join the Safe Schools network by 2018, but the program is voluntary in other states and territories. So far 490 primary and high schools nationally have signed up, although the list of 24 schools in Queensland is secret.
It’s not hard to see why this controversial program is receiving a lot of media attention of late.
- Safe Schools Coalition tells teachers to integrate gender diversity and sexual diversity across all curriculum areas.
- Minus18, the organisation that co-wrote many of Safe Schools resources, tells students and teachers that school chaplains have a reputation for prejudice, in particular when dealing with LGBT people.
- Boys and girls who want to appear as a member of the opposite sex are advised how to “tuck” and “bind” on a website endorsed in the material.
- Tells children aged 11-14 that it’s up to them to describe what gender identity fits them best.
- Safe Schools Coalition are promoting a new book, The Gender Fairy, for 4 year olds, with the by-line “Only you know whether you are a boy or a girl. No one can tell you”
Wendy Francis is the Queensland Director of the Australian Christian Lobby.