Safe – Schools’ Program

Anti – bullying program “Safe – Schools” has made headlines for it’s alleged extreme approach to tackling homophobia and transphobia. Not surprisingly, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), aren’t happy about the emphasis on LGBT+. And while I’m not a  fan of the ACL… maybe this time they have a point.

One of the issues that the ACL have raised concerns, particularly on the way the Safe Schools program is affecting primary schools, with programs that include binding the chest to emphasise gender change, I guess. Frankly, when I first read about that, I thought it was an extreme exaggeration. But, after reading one comment on the bottom of http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/safe-schools-program/, I kind of understand their concern, if it’s true.

In my opinion, anti – bullying programs should be based on just that – anti – bullying. Maybe talk about homophobic and transphobic attitudes and emphasise that they will be condemned at the school if reported. Secondly, (I’ve touched on this before), teachers and counsellors should be equipped to support LGBTQIA+ kids, with (hopefully), the acknowledgement and respect of kids who identify or suspect their asexual. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think that the majority of counsellors, including ones I’ve personally dealt with, have had their hearts in the right place, but asexuality wasn’t really discussed as a possibility, nor was it talked about at school in general. I’m talking back to 2005 and 2007, so things may have broadened a bit in terms of understanding of sexuality. Apart from the issue of contraception use and safe – sex practices, I really don’t see the point in schools (particularly primary schools), having to emphasise on sexual practices by same – sex couples. If it’s bought up in a high – school context, or is a part of the overall PDHPE sexual development and health discussion about contraception/ avoiding STIs etc, then I can understand. Just throwing it in people’s faces without taking anyone’s feelings into consideration is just going to end in tears.

I fear that this sort of action will only backfire on those who they are meant to protect. The reason why is because of the heavy emphasis of sex and body parts (e.g. breasts), rather than an overall look at LGBT+ as human beings, rather than sexual or gender stereotypes.

Thirdly, is the concern I have is about the possible alienation of people with genuinely held different values, particularly those from a conservative beliefs. How can they support a so – called “anti – bullying” program when concerns are not heard? What if someone is generally uncomfortable, particularly if the curriculum is explicit or focused on politics rather than anti – bullying. In my opinion, Sydney’s Burwood Girls’ School turned out to be a total farce. Concerns from parents were practically ignored, according to the Daily Telegraph and students, ironically, feared of being bullied if they didn’t want to watch the film or participate in events taking place in the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). So, kids were worried about not participating in a supposedly anti – bullying event in fear of being bullied? How’s that supposed to work?

Look, talk about bullying (broadly), talk about homophobia and transphobia, support kids across the LGBT+ spectrum, (incluidng asexuals), but please, please, DON’T be so divisive that it drives people away from wanting to be involved in anti – bullying efforts. Keep the politics out of it and focus on the kids.

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