Bendigo principals defend decision not to join Safe Schools Coalition
Bendigo Advertiser, April 19, 2016
Principals of Bendigo secondary colleges have defended their decision not to sign on to the Safe Schools Coalition, saying their institutions already have “meaningful” programs in place to protect LGBTI students.
Eaglehawk Secondary College principal Noel Claridge said his teachers were advised how to provide all students with an inclusive environment.
Asked to respond to the Victorian government’s plan to mandate Safe Schools Coalition membership by the end of 2018, Mr Claridge said he was open to “looking at ways in which Eaglehawk (Secondary College) can support schools to be more inclusive”.
But he recommended a compulsory roll-out of the program be accompanied by professional development for teachers who deliver the program.
“We need to make sure it’s taught in a sensitive way that is respectful of all groups of people,” he said.
Bendigo South East College principal Ernie Fleming said his school had “six or seven” initiatives in place to safeguard the wellbeing of LGBTI students, and worried becoming a member of the Safe Schools Coalition would not be a meaningful way of addressing the issue.
He said his school would acquiesce if the government mandated the program in its schools.
“We’ll look at it and try and make it meaningful,” he said.
But community member Helen Leach said it was not the role of schools to educate children about their sexuality.
“It’s up to the teachers to teach academic subjects, and it’s up to the parents to teach other things, and it’s none of the state’s business to teach children about those matters,” she said.
Mr Claridge disagreed, saying schools had “moved away from being only a place of academia”.
“Good schools are about academic performance, but they’re also about teaching social skills that make young people equipped to make the move into adulthood.”