Andrews ‘on a limb’ as NSW drops Safe Schools
The Australian, 17 April 2017
The Andrews Labor government is “out on a limb” in its support for the embattled Safe Schools anti-bullying project and should replace it with a program for everyone, the former co-chairman of the Coalition’s curriculum review says.
Kevin Donnelly, a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University, said the weight of change was against Victoria as federal funding for the anti-bullying initiative dries up and the NSW government yesterday confirmed it would dump the program.
NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes yesterday said the state government was devising a broader strategy to take on schoolyard bullies that would be introduced in July after federal funding for Safe Schools was cut.
“It doesn’t surprise me (Victoria is) clinging on to it, but they are out on a limb,” Dr Donnelly told The Australian.
Dr Donnelly was one of the first and most strident critics of the program. “It should be replaced with a broader, more general program which targets all the ways students are bullied in schools,” he said.
Safe Schools was designed to help teachers and students deal with homophobia and transphobia but has been heavily criticised for promoting sexual diversity and gender fluidity.
The initiative was co-founded by La Trobe University employee Roz Ward about seven years ago and adopted by the Brumby government in Victoria.
It was run by the university until Ms Ward, an avowed Marxist, attracted the ire of critics and forced the Victorian government to sack her.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews kept the program, however, and has vowed to maintain it beyond the funding cut. “There are no plans to scrap the Safe Schools program in Victoria,” a government spokesman said yesterday.
Ms Ward last year labelled the Australian flag as “racist” and said she was “shattered” when the Andrews government decided to run the program in-house. She was briefly suspended by La Trobe for her behaviour in defence of the program, but was later reinstated.
While Victoria has become the chief backer of Safe Schools, other states still accommodate the program. Take-up in some of these states, such as Western Australia, has been low.
The federal government reviewed Safe Schools material last year. “Federal funding provided under the previous government’s contract ends in the middle of this year and will not be renewed,” a spokesman for Education Minister Simon Birmingham said yesterday.
The NSW government’s replacement program will be available for teachers by term three this year. “Bullying will never be tolerated in NSW public schools — whether it be because someone is overweight, gay, based on the colour of their skin or for any other reason,” Mr Stokes said.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott praised the NSW government’s decision to scrap the Safe Schools program while simultaneously distancing the Coalition from the anti-bullying initiative, which was launched under his leadership in 2014.
“Good that NSW is scrapping so-called Safe Schools, a social engineering programme dressed up as anti-bullying”, Mr Abbott tweeted yesterday. “This was a Gillard govt programme, not — REPEAT NOT — an Abbott govt one.”
Bill Shorten yesterday said: the program had become a “political football … if the NSW government wants to run anti-bullying programs in one way and not another, we will have a look at what that means.”
Kate Doak, who was the NSW representative of the Safe Schools Coalition board between 2014 and mid-2016, said it was hypocritical of the NSW government to announce its departure from Safe Schools in the same week it rejected an independent recommendation to make special religious education an opt-in for high school students.
Safe Schools program ditched in NSW, to be replaced by wider anti-bullying plan
ABC News, 16 April 2017
Former prime minister Tony Abbott has commended the NSW Government’s decision to ditch the controversial Safe Schools program, designed to educate students about sexual and gender diversity.
“Good that NSW is scrapping so called Safe Schools, a social engineering programme dressed up as anti-bullying,” Mr Abbott tweeted on Sunday.
His tweets followed the State Government’s confirmation a new broader anti-bullying strategy will be put into place in public schools, when federal funding for the Safe Schools program runs out in June.
Education Minister Rob Stokes said education officials were developing the new plan which would be made available to teachers from July this year.
“The Australian Government, who fund and oversee the Safe Schools program, have advised that they will no longer be providing funding for the program by mid-year,” Mr Stokes said in a statement.
“The NSW Department of Education is currently developing an updated anti-bullying strategy that will be a new resource available for teachers from the beginning of term three.”
Mr Stokes said NSW public schools would continue to provide support to LGBTQI students.
“Bullying will never be tolerated in NSW public schools — whether it be because someone is overweight, gay, based on the colour of their skin or for any other reason,” he said.
“Students and parents should expect that schools are a place where they feel safe. Schools remain one of the most secure and trusted public institutions in our community.
“Students who are struggling in our schools, for whatever reason, need support and will continue to receive it in NSW public schools.”
The NSW Government is the first state to dump the program, with Labor State Governments in Victoria and the ACT deciding to fund their own versions after June.
Safe Schools a ‘political football’: Shorten
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the program had been made a “political football” for conservatives and Labor would scrutinise any new proposals.
“It is important that children go to school and are not bullied on the basis of their sexuality,” he said.
“Labor won’t take a backwards step from the principle that our teenagers going to school need every help to free from bullying.”
Labor’s education spokesman Jihad Dib said he would be very concerned if students who relied on the Safe Schools program found “there is nothing left for them”.
He said it was the State Government’s responsibility to allocate sufficient funding.
“You can’t do things on the cheap and if we are going to provide support to students, schools and their families we need to make sure there is adequate money put into things like that,” Mr Dib said.
“As the Government talks about its rivers of gold in its budget surpluses this is an opportunity to put money into programs that are going to work.”
Safe Schools: Victoria’s DET can’t prove homophobic bullying
Rebecca Urban, The Australian, 8 April 2017
Victorian education officials have conceded there is a lack of hard evidence on the rates of homophobic bullying in schools to justify the state government’s decision to mandate the contentious Safe School program.
Responding to questions on notice after a recent parliamentary hearing, the state’s Department of Education and Training revealed this week that it could not provide a statistical breakdown of bullying cases by cause, such as race, gender, physical appearance, disability, faith or sexual preference.
The admission comes as the Andrews Labor government has committed to spending more than $2 million rolling out the Safe Schools program, developed by La Trobe University academics but now run by the department, to all public secondary schools.
The program, which provides information, professional training and sex education resources to help schools deal with homophobia, has been widely criticised for being about promoting sexual and gender diversity, as its previous manager Roz Ward once claimed, rather than stamping out bullying.
“Instances of bullying are often recorded by schools. However, the root causes and reasons for bullying behaviour are often complex and may not be easily identifiable,” was the department’s response to the public accounts and estimates hearing held in February.
“In many instances children and young people involved in bullying are not able to clearly articulate the reason for their behaviour, therefore making reporting on the root causes for bullying behaviour unreliable.”
The response also calls into question repeated claims made by Victorian Education Minister James Merlino that 75 per cent of same-sex-attracted youth had been bullied.
The reference appears to be based on a 2010 research report by La Trobe that promoted the work of Safe Schools, for which it later received state funding to deliver on the government’s behalf.
The Writing Themselves In 3 report since has been criticised by academics over its various shortcomings, including the requirement that participants self-select, meaning the sample group could not be considered representative of the broader same-sex-attracted population.
The parliamentary secretary to the opposition leader, Tim Smith, who posed the question to the department, said it was clear it did not collect independent data on various causes of bullying in schools. “Good policy should be evidenced-based,” Mr Smith told The Weekend Australian.
“All children should be taught tolerance and respect for the multiplicity of differences that exist between students, whether it’s based on social background, gender, sexual preference, religion, language, appearance et cetera.
“The Safe Schools program is a highly politicised program aimed at spreading a postmodernist ideology and radical ideas about sex and gender — not combating homophobia.” The Liberal Party had committed to scrapping Safe Schools in favour of a comprehensive anti-bullying program.
Longtime LGBTI health advocate Rob Mitchell said the program had been “irreparably tainted” through a lack of governance and transparency for years.
“We’ve had the same group conduct the research, design the program and then attract the funding to deliver the program,” he said. “The only thing (the government) can do now is get a credible independent group without an agenda to devise a comprehensive anti-bullying program.”
A spokesman for Mr Merlino said the government had made the program mandatory because “it saves lives”.
School standards drop as Vic government pushes a politically correct program
Kevin Donnelly, Herald Sun, 13 March 2017
PARENTS should be worried about the LGBTI Safe Schools gender and sexuality program being forced on government schools by Daniel Andrews’ government.
Add the fact, as reported in The Australian recently, that vulnerable teenagers with intellectual disabilities enrolled in Victorian special schools are also being indoctrinated, and it’s understandable why so many now call the program Un-Safe Schools.
Such was the furore last year about Safe Schools’ indoctrinating of pupils with a Marxist-inspired curriculum, where gender is fluid and limitless and boys can be girls and girls can be boys, that the Commonwealth censored the program and cut its funding.
Not so in Victoria, where the uncensored version is being promoted. Education Minister James Merlino has said “Work is under way on expanding Safe Schools to all government schools by the end of 2018.”
Supporters argue it is an anti-bullying program to make schools safer. Wrong.
Roz Ward, the Marxist academic responsible for its design, publicly admits its real purpose is to impose a radical, alternative view about gender and sexuality: “Safe Schools Coalition is about supporting gender and sexual diversity, not about stopping bullying.” She says it’s about “sexual diversity, about same-sex attraction, about being transgender, about being lesbian, gay, bisexual — say the words transgender, intersex”.
While the government severed ties with Ward and La Trobe University’s Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society late last year, the Safe Schools material is still guilty of advocating an extreme, cultural-Left view of gender and sexuality.
Notwithstanding that about 98 per cent of Australians identify as heterosexual and are comfortable being men and women, one of the resources, OMG I’M Queer, tells pupils that “sexuality can’t really be defined”. It is stated that “sexuality is fluid, and changes over time” and “Looking at sexuality as something that’s fluid and always changing is pretty cool”.
According to Safe Schools, “what you label yourself is up to you” as “common definitions of sexuality, gender and sex are often limited” and because gender and sexuality “exist on a spectrum rather than absolute binaries”.
Ignored (as argued by the American College of Pediatricians, and with very rare exceptions) is that we are all born with either XY or XX chromosomes, and “Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species”.
Even though most children are happy being boys or girls, the Safe Schools material argues “Gender isn’t quite as simple as whether you’re ‘male’ or ‘female’. Everyone has their own gender identity in relation to masculinity or femininity”. Victoria’s version of Safe Schools also repeats the misleading statistics used by the LGBTI lobby when justifying the need for government funding and positive discrimination.
The All of Us booklet tells pupils 10 per cent of people are same-sex-attracted. Ignored is one of the largest Australian surveys, by Anthony Smith and Paul Badcock, Sexual identity and practices, that concludes only 1.6 per cent of men identify as gay and 0.8 per cent of women as lesbian.
On reading the Safe Schools material on the Victorian Department of Education and Training’s website, parents are left in no doubt that Safe Schools is more about LGBTI advocacy than stopping bullying. Schools are told that language should be gender-neutral and, as a result, “Phrases like ‘ladies and gentlemen’ or ‘boys and girls’ should be avoided”.
Schools are also told they should ensure, regardless of whether pupils are male and female, that they should be able to use “the toilets, changing rooms, showers and swimming facilities based on the student’s gender identity and the facilities they feel most comfortable with”.
Safe Schools is not the only alternative, cultural-Left program. The Respectful Relationships material is also one-sided and biased. Even though the Victorian royal commission concluded that 25 per cent of family violence involves men as victims, the Respectful Relationships program implies it’s only women who are at risk. Boys and men are portrayed as misogynist and violent.
Once again gender is presented as a social construct that is impossible to define because whatever gender you are is “determined by what an individual feels and does and how individuals understand their identities including being a man, women, transgender, gender queer and many other gender positions”.
But at the same time the government is forcing a politically correct gender and sexuality program on government schools, we are going backwards in international literacy and numeracy tests; we are now ranked 24th in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study. So much for the basics.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of Dumbing Down
ACT MP questions Safe Schools program, says children should be taught the law on underage sex
The Canberra Times, 3 March 2017
Liberal Elizabeth Kikkert has questioned the Safe Schools program in ACT schools, asking why children are not being taught instead that it is illegal to have sex before 16.
“Is it illegal or is it breaking the law if you perform sexual intercourse underage?” Mrs Kikkert asked education officials at parliamentary hearings on Friday.
“I’m not an authority to speak,” an education directorate official responded.
“I don’t think that’s relevant,” Education Minister Yvette Berry said.
“I’m pretty sure it is [illegal],” Mrs Kikkert shot back. “So what I’m trying to get at is why is the Safe Schools program teaching safe sex to underage kids? Why don’t we teach them that this is breaking the law first. I think we have it all backwards.”
The ACT is developing its own Safe Schools program to help LGTBIQ children and children coming to terms with diverse sexuality after the federal government backed away from its national program. The ACT material, funded by $100,000 added to the budget this year, will be ready for schools in term 3.
There was confusion at Friday’s hearings about whether Canberra teachers are teaching the Safe Schools program in their classrooms, with officials saying the program was not delivered in classrooms, but later conceding they couldn’t be sure what individual schools did with it.
Mrs Kikkert asked if parents could choose whether their child took part in the Safe Schools program, to which the Education Directorate’s head of policy, Jacinta Evans, said there was no need to opt in or out because the program provided individual support for students and advice for schools on how to help students. It was not a program delivered in classrooms, but was material available to schools, she said.
Ms Berry said classes had not been delivered on the Safe Schools material.
“The Safe Schools Coalition has not delivered a class on the material on the Safe Schools website that was provided by the Commonwealth government,” Ms Berry said. “Teachers in their classrooms may have received advice from the Safe Schools Coalition on curriculum support materials to complement lessons on health and well being.”
Mrs Kikkert hit back: “Are you in denial, because we want to know the truth. The Safe Schools program was taught in the classroom in an ACT school. It was provided to the teachers. They had training on it. Students were given a consent form to the parents asking whether the kids were okay to attend this program called the Safe School program.”
Ms Howson asked Mrs Kikkert to provide more information about the case, but Ms Berry asked her not to name the school in public.
Ms Howson said schools in the ACT had autonomy, and principals could make thier own decisions about programs they “invite in from outside”.
“So you’re right, Mrs Kikkert, to be absolutely categoric is probably foolish from me at this point.”
Mrs Kikkert said “It’s also more than teaching kids to be respectful for other people and to respect who they are, it’s teaching them about having safe sex, so the Safe School program, it’s not safe school, it’s safe sex. That’s what it is.”
“I’d ask you to be respectful,” Labor committee chairman Michael Pettersson told Mrs Kikkert.
Ms Berry said she had spoken recently with students who said the program had made them “feel like they were included and part of their school community, they weren’t treated any differently because if their different sexual identities, that they were ordinary people loved and respected by their school community”.
Ms Berry said she would not be concerned to discover such a program had been taught in classrooms.
“So the teacher could stand in front of the classroom and teach it?” Mrs Kikkert asked.
“They could,” Ms Berry said. “They could use some of the tools, some of the materials that’s being developed to support individual students and students within their classroom. Yes they could.”
MP Damien Tudehope MP demands minister should kill off Safe Schools
The Daily Telegraph, 16 February 2017
A LIBERAL MP has used the first week of Parliament to throw a curve ball at his own minister, demanding he issue an immediate directive to principals to completely kill the Safe Schools program.
Epping MP Damien Tudehope said that because of concerns raised by some in the community about the program, “it is not good enough to say that this is purely a matter of ‘local schools, local decisions’.”
“So here’s the tip — the new Minister should immediately take steps to give a direction to all principals that from the 16th February 2017, no school in NSW will be registered for, or disseminate any material, being promoted by the Safe Schools Coalition,” he told the Parliament.
“I call upon the Minister to make that direction immediately.”
Advocates for the program argue it is a crucial anti-bullying mechanism.
But Mr Tudehope, a well-known opponent of the program, said he would continue to call for its removal.
“Parents ought to be under no delusion as to the insidious nature with which this program has been introduced into the school system,” he said.
New Education Minister Rob Stokes has only been in the job a few weeks, having been shifted from his previous portfolio of planning by Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Kevin Donnelly: What’s so secret about Safe Schools?
The Daily Telegraph, 16 February 2017
THE NSW Education Department has denied a Freedom of Information request to publicly identify those schools enrolled in the Safe Schools gender and sexuality program.
This is bizarre given that Western Australian, South Australian, Tasmanian and Northern Territory governments all make similar details public.
So what has the department got to hide?
Parents have every right to know whether their child’s school is involved and if the new Education Minister Rob Stokes is committed to openness and transparency then the names of schools must be made public.
Deciding where their children go to school is one of the most significant decisions parents make and it’s only fair their decision is based on detailed information.
Especially given the LGBTI program, recently reviewed by the NSW government, still advocates a radical, Marxist view of gender and sexuality that many parents find unacceptable.
One of the booklets is co-authored by La Trobe University’s Roz Ward, who argues “LGBTI oppression and heteronormativity are woven into the fabric of capitalism” and “it will only be through a revitalised class struggle and revolutionary change that we can hope for the liberation of LGBTI people”.
The Safe Schools material argues there’s nothing natural about being a boy or a girl. Students are told that “everyone has their own identity in relation to masculinity and femininity”.
A national survey concludes about 98 per cent of Australians identify as male or female and, according to the University of Sydney’s Patrick Parkinson, only 1 to 3 per cent are gay or lesbian, but Safe Schools material argues “around 10 per cent of people are same-sex attracted”.
Research also proves while a minority of children and adolescents might experience uncertainty about their sexuality, the majority outgrow the condition.
The Safe Schools program ignores the research and tells vulnerable students that the condition is permanent.
The material also tells students that instead of sexual and gender identity being determined by chromosomes that “it’s up to the individual to describe what gender identity suits them best”.
If a boy self-identifies as a girl, schools are told that they should “confirm the toilets, changing rooms, showers and swimming facilities (are) based on the student’s gender identity and the facilities they feel most comfortable with”.
Ignored are the rights of the overwhelming majority of students who are happy being boys and girls and whose parents expect schools to protect their privacy.
Ours is an age of identity politics and victimhood where the curriculum is awash with teaching students about the rights of politically correct minority groups.
Instead of programs such as Safe Schools indoctrinating students it’s time to focus on what schools are meant to do — teach the basics.
Especially as over the past four to eight years NSW students’ literacy and numeracy results, measured by the national literacy and numeracy tests (NAPLAN), have gone backwards. It is also true that teaching about gender and sexuality is best left to parents as they are their children’s primary care givers.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of Dumbing Down — available as an e-reader
Schools so safe they are secret
The Australian, 14 February 2017
So safety conscious is the NSW Education Department that it is keeping secret its list of schools running the Safe Schools program, apparently so that the schools and their students are kept safe from any backlash. Never mind parents and transparency. And never mind the argument that this program is such a harmless, beneficial and uncontentious exercise in combating school bullying that all children should be given access. In the long-running and highly politicised debate about Safe Schools this level of secrecy is counterproductive and tends to boost the argument that the program is an underhand example of progressive social engineering.
If Safe Schools is as straightforward as its proponents suggest — just giving kids the chance to understand and resist the mindlessness and horrible ramifications of bullying — then schools should be trumpeting their involvement. This would in turn give all parents the sort of information they deserve, allowing them to make informed decisions concerning the welfare of their children. Instead, the department is effectively telling parents that these schools are so safe, they must be kept under the radar.
As Rebecca Urban reports today, the evidence provided to the privacy watchdog to justify the department’s approach is not compelling. It cites vague concerns that identifying schools will enable transgender, gay or lesbian students to be identified, exposing them to risk of ridicule or harm, including self-harm. It also argues that schools and their staff will be exposed to hate mail and verbal attacks. This is a similar argument to that put in opposition to a gay marriage plebiscite. It is a form of emotional blackmail against dissenting opinion and is discordant with what we know to be the broad tolerance most Australians demonstrate every day.
Safe Schools should be embraced or scrapped; keeping it as a hidden agenda is the worst option. This has a long history but it is time the relatively new department chief, Mark Scott, and new minister Rob Stokes showed some common sense. They could show NSW education is moving on from a union-cowed period under Adrian Piccoli.
Secrecy over Safe Schools in NSW criticised
Rebecca Urban, The Australian, 14 February 2017
NSW is under mounting pressure to reveal the names of schools signed up to the controversial Safe Schools program after the state’s privacy and information watchdog rejected claims that disclosure would expose students to serious harm, harassment or intimidation.
The department has twice knocked back a disclosure request under the Government Information Public Access Act, arguing that releasing the names of participating schools would also lead to the potential identification of individual students.
New Education Minister Rob Stokes, who has been in the job for less than a month, yesterday endorsed the department’s decision, suggesting that the government’s position on the Safe Schools program, which assists same-sex attracted and transgender youth by promoting sexual diversity and gender fluidity, was unlikely to change.
Documents seen by The Australian suggest that principals campaigned heavily for the department to keep the list a secret, with many expressing concerns over disclosure.
The Safe Schools Coalition had previously listed member schools on its website. However, the NSW government pulled its schools from the website last July. According to the Education Department, of the 31 public schools previously outed as Safe Schools members, more than half had claimed they had been negatively targeted as a result. Consequently, some schools had withdrawn from the program, while several principals reported that parents had removed their children from the school. One principal, who has not been identified, claimed he was slandered and his family attacked after the school’s name appeared on the register.
Safe Schools Coalition Australia claims that 304 schools nationwide are members. Victoria, which is run separately to the national group, has 284 member schools. NSW is not the only state to order schools be hidden from public view, with Queensland doing the same last year.
Labor MP Greg Donnelly, a longstanding Safe Schools critic, requested a list of NSW primary and secondary school members under the GIPA Act last July. The department rejected the application in September.
Mr Donnelly appealed to the Information and Privacy Commission, which ruled in his favour, recommending the department make a new decision, with “regard to the matters raised and guidance in this report”.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd took particular issue with the department’s claim that disclosing the information could “reasonably be expected to expose a person to a risk of harm”.
According to the report, the phrase “reasonably be expected to” meant more than a “mere possibility, risk or chance” and must “not be purely speculative, fanciful, imaginary or contrived”.
Ms Tydd argued that the department was required to “specify the person to which the possibility of harm applies and substantiate the risk and that the risk is serious”, which it had not done. She also questioned how publicly disclosing the name of a school alone would constitute disclosure of personal information about an “unspecified student”. “For these reasons we are not satisfied that … the (department) has justified its decision,” Ms Tydd said.
Following an internal review, the department affirmed its decision this month. It cited an Australian Human Rights Commission report that said schools were “significant sites of homophobic violence and abuse”, with the problem “increasing over time”.
Mr Donnelly, who is considering appealing over the matter to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, expressed concerns that the department continued to withhold the information, despite the criticisms of the Information Commissioner. “It begs the question, what is the NSW government hiding,” he said.
The department stood by its decision. “Disclosing the list of participating schools is reasonably likely to prejudice the effective exercise by those schools of their functions in relation to student safety, welfare and wellbeing and would enable students to be identified and consequently put them at risk of harm, serious harassment or serious intimidation,” a spokesman said.
Mr Stokes said he had been advised that disclosing the list of participating schools was “reasonably likely to risk student safety, welfare and wellbeing”.
“The last thing I want to do is put a child at risk,” he said.