In a televised debate on Sky News, Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews was asked a question about the Safe Schools program. My interest doesn’t relate to the forthcoming election, but as a parent with 3 children, I am interested in what they are (or aren’t) taught at school.
I found Mr Andrews’ answer to be a curious one, and it raises several important questions.
Are our children taught Safe Schools material?
First of all, Mr. Andrews made the point that “Safe Schools is not taught to any student in any school in this state…It is a resource for teachers”.
He is correct when he says that Safe Schools provides resources for teachers. However, Mr. Andrews is mistaken when he suggests that “Safe Schools is not taught to any student in any school in this state.”
The reality is, Safe Schools material is promoted and taught in almost every State secondary schools, and it is also found in many primary schools and privates schools around Victoria.
For example, the Safe Schools Coalition website explains,
“The Hub is the Government’s one-stop−shop for information and resources on student wellbeing for the whole school community including students and their parents/carers. The site includes curriculum−aligned resources on contemporary topics and issues that impact on the wellbeing of students.” (bold is my emphasis)
All of us is assigned material to be used in schools. To quote,
“ALL OF US All Of Us is a collection of short videos and teaching activities designed by Safe Schools Coalition Australia in order to assist students in understanding gender diversity, sexual diversity and intersex topics. “
“ALL OF US: UNIT GUIDE…The Safe Schools Coalition Australia guide for a Health and Physical Education resource for years 7 and 8 on the topic of gender and sexual diversity. This unit is taught in conjunction with videos, student handouts and posters”
Safe Schools own advertising speaks of material that is designed for children, and it is written to be integrated throughout school subjects: “This material can be interspersed throughout school subjects, “Schools may also choose to adapt and use the videos and teaching activities in other areas of the curriculum such as English, History, Humanities, Legal Studies, Civics and Citizenship, and applied learning curriculums (e.g. VCAL, TAS) where the exploration of LGBTI people and topics allows.”
Is Safe Schools about preventing all bullying?
I have a second question relating to the scope of Safe Schools. Mr Andrews said,
“It is a resource for teachers to make sure that if a child is bullied for wearing a turban or if a child is bullied (or a younger person is bullied) because of their sexuality or if a person is bullied because of the faith they practice or if a person is bullied because of their gender, then they have a safe environment”
While I applaud the Premier for speaking against students being bullied because of their race or religion, this has nothing to do with Safe Schools.
Safe Schools does not address issues relating to bullying on the basis of a student’s race or religious beliefs. It is specifically and narrowly aimed at preventing bullying of LGBT schools students and promoting and even encouraging the normalcy of LGBT lifestyles.
The Victorian Education website describes the program as follows: “In 2010, the Victorian Government established Safe Schools to ensure schools are safe places for all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) students, and are free of discrimination.”
To my knowledge, there is no emphasis on or even mention made in the program about bullying because of race or religion. I am yet to read even a paragraph that teaches students to respect and affirm other students for their religious convictions. The material does, however, allege that students who affirm a Christian or Jewish view of sexuality as being sexists,. Children who believe heterosexuality is normal or desirable are labelled with the new and derogatory term, heterosexism. There are also numerous reports of children being marginalised in their schools for not supporting the gender fluidity theories that are promoted as fact in Safe Schools.
I’m sure our schools are doing an excellent job at teaching children to respect people from other races and religions, but it is simply wrong to suggest the Safe Schools is doing anything to counter this kind of bullying.
Is Safe Schools compulsory?
A third question relates to Mr Andrews’ suggestion that Safe Schools is not compulsory. It has been interesting to note that while the Federal Government and many State Governments have either greatly reduced the Safe Schools curriculum or removed it altogether, Victoria has pushed ahead with the plan to implement the program into every secondary school by the end of 2018.
It is interesting to note that Mr Andrews stresses that Safe Schools is not part of the Education Curriculum. While that appears to be the case (it is fine to argue over semantics), but we must note that Safe Schools is an official program of the Victorian Education Department.
In March 2016, The Age reported that “Education Minister James Merlino says he’ll make the original un-gutted program compulsory for all state schools by the end of 2018”
In January of this year, Education Minister, James Merlino reminded Victorians that, “We will be continuing to deliver the Safe Schools program and every government secondary school will be participating by the end of 2018.”
In other words, every secondary school in Victoria is expected to participate in Safe Schools, and while there is flexibility as to what the school presents, there is specific teaching material provided for teachers to implement across the school curriculum.
I’m sure many parents would be keen to hear Mr Andrews or Mr Merlino clarify the Premier’s comments.