Observations and Questions about ‘Safe Schools’

I have read some of the stories being recounted in the media of teenagers being bullied and abused because of their sexuality. I would not wish such experiences upon anyone. It is because bullying is so detrimental to children (and adults too) that it is vital for schools to have in place effective and fair programs. In my view, Safe Schools is neither.

Despite what Bill Shorten and some others are claiming, it is possible to be concerned for these children and believe that Safe Schools is not the answer. It is possible to want these children supported and to see them flourishing, and have reason for believing that Safe Schools may cause more harm than good.

1. Bullying is real. Children are bullied in schools for all kinds of reasons, including race, religion, weight, social status, mental ability, and sexuality. Safe Schools doesn’t address any of these other forms of bullying and focuses solely on sexuality. This is not to ignore bullying on the basis of gender, but would it not be sensible to provide an overarching program that teaches children to respect and care for other people in all these areas? Indeed, many of our schools already run such programs, and to great success.

2. Session 2 of the program for year 7 and 8 students asks the question, ‘Imagine you are attracted to someone of the same sex…’ and students are then encouraged to pursue this path of possibility. Is this suitable for 11-13 year old children?

3. Why is an anti-bullying program providing links to websites where students can buy ‘sex equipment’, attend masochist training, and watch pornography? I understand that some of these links have been taken down, but why were they ever there in the first place, and who is to guarantee that they won’t reappear at a future date? These things may not be part of the formal curriculum, but they have nonetheless been added for students who wish to investigate further.

4. What materials and support is offered to students who experience same-sex attraction and do not wish to encourage or live out these desires? I am yet to find anything in all their website that will help these children.

5. Safe Schools teaches the false dichotomous view about peoples attitudes to gender differences: either you support and encourage all sexual variants, or you are a bigot and homophobe. This is simply not true, and to insist of such simplistic and erroneous positioning is intellectually and morally dishonest.

6. Heteronormativity is dismissed and alternative sexual expressions are encouraged. A child who believes  heterosexuality is normal or desirable is labelled with heterosexism.

7. The material makes use of the Blooms Taxonomy, which is designed to make learning more than merely impartation of information and ideas, but to change behaviour and attitudes. In other words, Safe Schools is no mere anti-bullying program, it is carefully constructed to re-engineer how children think about gender and sex.

8. Why does the Safe Schools Coalition website cite statistics that lack scientific credibility?

Safe Schools

These statistics are offered as assumed facts, however according to recent studies, the numbers are significantly lower than those suggested on the website.

I understand that gauging accurate numbers for sexuality and gender is near impossible given difficulties over definitions and categories, as well as social and cultural stigmas, and other reasons that may prevent some people from aligning with LGBTIQ. On top of that, other people find that with age and experience their self-understanding and lifestyle may change. Keeping all those variables in mind, the statistics presented by Safe Schools differs significantly to the major studies conducted around the world.

Safe Schools want us to believe that 10% of the population have same-sex attraction, whereas most scientific studies put the figure under 4% (and that includes bisexual people), and other research suggests even lower.

While the Safe Schools material states with confidence that 1.7% of people are intersex.

The American Psychological Association suggests the figure to be about 1 in 1,500, not the 1 in 60 which Safe Schools would have us accept as scientific fact.

And this research directly contests the 1.7% figure:

“Anne Fausto‐Sterling’s suggestion that the prevalence of intersex might be as high as 1.7% has attracted wide attention in both the scholarly press and the popular media…If the term intersex is to retain any meaning, the term should be restricted to those conditions in which chromosomal sex is inconsistent with phenotypic sex, or in which the phenotype is not classifiable as either male or female. Applying this more precise definition, the true prevalence of intersex is seen to be about 0.018%, almost 100 times lower than Fausto‐Sterling’s estimate of 1.7%.”

This kind of misrepresentation of facts and science straight away raises questions about the legitimacy of this program. It is analogous to a political party taking 10 polls, publishing the one that is favourable and deleting the 9 which are less supportive. Or it’s like coming home after a cricket match and telling everyone I scored 185 runs, when in fact it was 42.

Smaller numbers does not of course reduce the value of people who find themselves in these categories, nor does it excuse us from providing care and support for children struggling with identity questions.

9. Is it the role of the Government and schools to teach sexual ethics to children? It’s a question worth asking.

For a course designed to remove ‘stereotypes’, Safe Schools successfully stereotypes many people including some LBGTI people, by not giving legitimacy to people who for personal and sometimes religious reasons, do not believe in living out same-sex thoughts and feelings.

Surely there is a better way forward where we can encourage children to show respect and kindness, and to support children wrestling with identity issues, without pushing a course with questionable science, material, and that has already begun estranging children in our schools.

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14 thoughts on “Observations and Questions about ‘Safe Schools’

  1. The full abstract of the ‘research’ you quote is –

    “Anne Fausto‐Sterling’s suggestion that the prevalence of intersex might be as high as 1.7% has attracted wide attention in both the scholarly press and the popular media. *Many reviewers are not aware that this figure includes conditions which most clinicians do not recognize as intersex, such as Klinefelter syndrome, Turner syndrome, and late‐onset adrenal hyperplasia*. If the term intersex is to retain any meaning, the term should be restricted to those conditions in which chromosomal sex is inconsistent with phenotypic sex, or in which the phenotype is not classifiable as either male or female.”

    There’s a contradiction there: in seeking that if ” …the term intersex is to retain any meaning, the term should be restricted to those conditions in which chromosomal sex is inconsistent with phenotypic sex, or in which the phenotype is not classifiable as either male or female.” – the author is ignoring the fact that Klinefelter syndrome & Turner syndrome ARE syndromes in which chromosomal sex IS inconsistent with phenotypic sex. People with both syndromes are, among other things, unable to have children.

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  2. 1. Bullying can affect all children whilst at school. That is very true but I believe that research shows LGBTI children are six times more likely to experience bullying and violence during their time in school than other students. They are also 14 times more likely to commit suicide, often due to such bullying. So there is without doubt a need to offer a specialised program to assist these students in our schools. There are already numerous other programs and resources offered to schools to deal with bullying in general.

    2. I see no problem with students aged 11-13 being asked to imagine something. Especially being asked to put themselves in the shoes of an LGBTI student. It’s certainly not too young to encourage empathy, tolerance and compassion. Especially considering it is at this age that students are starting to form their first relationships and really start becoming attracted to others.

    3. I’m not aware of the sites you’re talking about there. Maybe you could provide some links to what you’re referring to. I certainly don’t trust your description of them.

    4. The only reason that any child would not wish to accept who they may be attracted to is because of the negative attitudes towards being gay. Attitudes that I assume people like you would like to see continue.

    5. Whether you like being called bigot or a homophobe is irrelevant. But if you show intolerance towards people being LGBTI then what are you if not a bigot or homophobe? How would you describe yourself?
    Plus please show me exactly where on their site they ‘teach’ this. Easy to make the claim but if you’re going to make it back it up.

    6. Same as above. Prove your statement. And frankly provide some explanation as to why we would need any affirmation of heteronormativity. It’s already everywhere. I doubt anyone living in this country is unaware that this is the accepted ‘normal’. The whole point of a program like the Safe Schools Program is to challenge what is normal and encourage tolerance of what some may view as not normal. This is no way whatsoever makes victims of heterosexuals. Encouraging tolerance isn’t persecution.

    7. Yes the Safe Schools Program is attempting to get children to view the LGBTI community differently to how people like yourself view it. That’s the whole point isn’t it? To challenge the idea that there is anything wrong with being LGBTI or at the very least to encourage tolerance even if you do think there’s something wrong with it.
    I think people who believe in Bronze Age myths about a bigoted god must have a mental illness and that such beliefs are immoral, damaging and wrong. But I tolerate you. I’m not asking for your churches to be shut down. I’m demanding that you keep children out of your churches so that you can’t indoctrinate them into your horrible beliefs. I tolerate you. You guys should learn a bit tolerance.

    8. Quibbling about statistics is kind of ridiculous. I’m sure they have studied that back up their stats and you have some that back up yours. These sorts of statistics can be misrepresented from both sides of this. Whether it’s 4% or 10% or whatever it doesn’t really matter. We do know that children who identify as LGBTI are much more likely to commit suicide. I doubt even you will deny that. And they are more likely to commit suicide because of people like you and your attitudes. That’s why a program like the Safe Schools Program is so important. Because we don’t want to continue the cycle of hatred, discrimination and persecution. We want to break that cycle so that the kids of today don’t grow up to be adults like you.

    9. Schools are a fantastic place to teach sexual ethics. Certainly better being taught in school than being taught by some religious nutter in a church.

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    • Intolerant in your tolerance I see. But one doesn’t need to be a religious bigot to oppose the LBGTI agenda. China, North Korea, Japan are practically atheist for all practical purposes and yet are notoriously hostile to those ideas you peddle. In fact you simply have to observe Nature to see that LBGTI notions of sexuality are not “normal”. The fact is that the process of evolution overwhelmingly favours heterosexual reproduction and therefore heterosexuality. Other forms of reproduction exist in Nature (hermaphrodites, cloning) and yet none really made it in evolutionary terms, ever ask yourself why? LBGTI behaviors can be attributable to genetics (which raises the question of whether “bigots” no longer “forcing” LBGTI individuals to reproduce may actually help to reduce the number of LBGTI individuals over the course of the next generation) or it can be attributable to culture in which case the LBGTI agenda should be totally open to criticism as is any other idea or cultural artifact in the public domain. Other cultural artifacts have been practically ideas (communism, nazism, etc.), let’s hope the LBGTI agenda is next.

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      • The fact that human (and other mammalian) reproduction is sexual reproduction is a separate issue to individual-sexuality and the fact that non-heterosexuals exist.

        There is no evidence that “LBGTI behaviors can be attributable to genetics”. Certainly changes in culture in the last generation or so have allowed greater expression of LGBTI individuals sense of their sexuality or their gender, or both, but there is no evidence that changes in culture have increased the proportions of L,G,B,T, or I individuals (I wonder if it may have slightly increased bisexuality in women).

        Communism and Nazism were nationalistic, totalitarian political systems essentially arising out of oppressed societies (though, of course, Russian communism at the end of WW II capitalised on the fall of Nazism to enforce itself upon eastern Europe, for a few decades). As such, their political category is a different category to the ‘first-world’ issues of sexuality & gender.

        I don’t think there is an LGBTI agenda to make society overall ‘more proportionally LGBTI’ — I see overwhelmingly only an agenda for equal acceptance (I am not LGBTI).

        I think issues around the Safe Schools Coalition and the Safe Schools program are overstated or misrepresented (some issues may well be valid, and hopefully the Federal Education minister’s review will address all the issues fairly).

        Kind regards.

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      • I admit I was being provocative towards an otherwise offensive comment. A friend of mine is gay, although I never cared for his lifestyle choices (his string of boyfriends, one girlfriend) I do care for him as a person and find interesting that, raised a catholic, he often expressed his frustration at gay men who he said often viewed sexual relationships “like tissue paper”. Anyway, I’m sure that since straight men and women failed to stamp out LBGTI preferences, LBGTI advocates will have equal difficulty convincing heterosexuals to change. But there are a few points in the LBGTI agenda that do trouble me:

        The first point is the gender theory: while LBGTI advocates claim that sexuality is not chosen (ie that one doesn’t “choose” to be gay) they claim the next minute that gender is constructed and not predetermined at birth. Surely there is a complete contradiction in the argument here because sexual identity and sexual preferences must surely go together and they are either received at birth (genetic) or constructed in life (cultural) or maybe a bit of both. I find the gender theory to be really more an ideology than a scientific theory and I think it should therefore be forcefully opposed.

        The second point that troubles me is the objectification of the human person, where the human body is completely subjected to the mind, to the Will. I think this idea stems from the atheist idea that we were not created by God and leads naturally to the idea that each person in possession of a Will should have complete control over his/her body and allowing free choice of sexual preferences, surrogacy, sex change but also abortion, assisted suicide, self mutilation and will lead I’m very sure in the future to things such as machine assisted procreation, cybernetic augmentation, genetic manipulation to provide embyos with superhuman features, indefinite extension of life, in short pure extension of the human Will without regards to God, Nature or other human beings. If you really think about it, the latter futuristic developments completely follow the same logic as the former contemporary “rights”. I also think this idea of putting the body at the service of the mind, very common nowadays, also leads to the idea that human beings without a Will whether unborn, mentally handicapped or in a deep coma inherently have fewer if any rights relative to “normal” human beings.
        When I picture the future of the LBGTI movement, I often think of Isaac Asimov’s Spacers who live alone, live to 300 years of age, are sexually hermaphrodites and eventually go extinct, outlived by “normal” humanity.

        Finally regarding the education of our children, the request that they be protected from the hyper sexualized world we live in at least until their majority is a fair request on the part of any parent be they straight or gay. It will be a grand day when the classrooms are no longer the stepping stone for ideological cruisades and I wish they never become the doorway for sexual predators.

        Best regards

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