Victorian school students allowed to identify as ‘undefined gender’ in official documents

Herald Sun, 22 March 2017

SENIOR high school pupils are being allowed to identify as having an “undefined gender” in official documents.

Personal details forms this year allow VCE and VCAL pupils — some as young as 15 — to choose whether they are male, female or “gender X”.

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority altered the form after requests from pupils who are transgender or “a gender that is not exclusively male or female”. Its spokesman said: “Schools also expressed similar concerns on behalf of students.

“The inclusion of Gender X in student records is of importance to the health and welfare of individual students who do not identify as male or female.”

But the Australian Christian Lobby’s Victorian director Dan Flynn said it was a “threat to change rooms and bathroom usage” and could create problems in selecting sex-specific sports teams.

“Giving boys the right to self-identify as a girl creates all those safety problems,” he said.

“Boys are boys and girls are girls and there would be a fractional category of people who are truly intersex. We are also opening the door to say ‘I don’t want to be a male or a female, I want to be something else’.

“This is out of step with the school community’s expectation and parents’ expectations,” Mr Flynn said.

Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling said: “(Premier) Daniel Andrews needs to … stop pushing his radical gender and sexuality theories onto other people’s children.”

But Education Minister James Merlino said schools must cater to all pupils: “We do have young people in our education system who are gender diverse so it is about reflecting and respecting every student.”

The VCAA may use the gender X statistics in reports that distinguish genders, including those that compare male and female VCE results.

Transgender Victoria called for the forms to offer four options: male, female, “other please specify”, and one allowing pupils not to answer.

Its executive director Sally Goldner hit out at claims that transgender children who used the toilets matching the sex they identified with were risking other pupils’ safety.

“There has never been a proven case (of misconduct) in Australia involving transgender people … in bathrooms. I really have to express my frustration that we keep having this ‘nothing’ debate,” she said.

Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/victorian-school-students-allowed-to-identify-as-undefined-gender-in-official-documents/news-story/6d50e6da6235510b16804efcee3aeef7

 

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

Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/school-standards-drop-as-government-pushes-a-politically-correct-program/news-story/1d8ee8085c93ae14df39ea8613e40863

Actual learning must take precedence over self-centred programs

David Penberthy, Sunday Herald Sun, 12 March 2017

MY KIDS were laughing the other night about that hapless couple who got booted off My Kitchen Rules after devising a Japanese-Italian menu that sought to combine pasta and pizza with sushi and sashimi.

I joked that perhaps they had been inspired by World War II and should have a themed Axis Powers restaurant serving raw tuna with pesto on a bed of sauerkraut. The kids, aged 10 and 14, looked at me blankly and a brief chat established that they had no idea what I was on about. That is because in Australia these days it is possible to be in year 6, or year 9, without having learnt about the three of the chief protagonists of the defining conflict of the 20th century.

Our schools have changed a lot in one generation. Effective rote-learning teaching methods have been wound back. The discipline of a morning spelling bee, the start of all my primary school days, seems to have vanished. Traditional sciences have made way for environmental studies, health and nutrition has become a subject, possibly to make up for poor parenting, and concepts such as wellness and emotional intelligence have equal billing with what were once regarded as the nuts and bolts of the curriculum.

Victoria is something of a Petri dish for the trendiest thinking in education, 2017-style, as illustrated by its Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships program. The Victorian Government is championing the program in part as a political response to the attacks on the Safe Schools program. Much of the discussion has centred on its sexual and gender-based content. There is a fair bit of that in it, for sure. Some of it is so PC as to invite derision, such as the book for kids entitled Tango Makes Three, which targets heteronormative bigotry (among five-year-olds) by telling them the story of two gay male penguins who decide to adopt a penguin chick. The stuff for the teenagers is racier but I don’t know why you need group discussions among teenage boys about masturbating. I’m sure they will have worked that out on their own. The program’s objectives are defined on the website: “Efforts to promote social and emotional skills and positive gender norms in children and young people have been shown to improve health-related outcomes and subjective wellbeing. It also reduces anti-social behaviours including engagement in gender-related violence.” Reading through the modules, the program in essence is about teaching young people self-esteem and shielding them from prejudice. That’s noble but it strikes me as an alternative to the one thing that schools should provide. Learning. Historically, self-esteem was something you developed by learning meaningful skills, ideally in a safe environment. It didn’t matter if it was history, maths or English, technical skills such as woodwork and metalwork or home economics, proficiency at sport … all those helped you develop a sense of purpose and self.

Much of the focus of Victoria’s resilience program strikes me as a kind of Oprah Winfrey show for teens and tots, where everyone talks about how they feel, without actually learning anything. It is feel-good stuff that has been plonked in the curriculum at the expense of acquiring knowledge. Its focus on gender identity and sexuality strikes me almost as a cult of the self, where very young people, many of whom may never have had a sexually driven or gender-based thought, are encouraged to spend time thinking about themselves in the context of their gender and sexual identity.

The year-by-year benchmarks for the “outcomes” of this program are illustrative. The key moments of World War II aren’t mentioned, but by year 5 kids should have learnt about gender identity and whether gender is “born or made”, the difference between same-sex-attracted, heterosexual and transgender and the power divisions between men and women, including unequal pay. That’s not me paraphrasing. It is the stated aim of the modules for students in years 5 and 6.

I would not be dismissive of the need to challenge and eliminate prejudice towards gay youths or kids dealing with gender issues. But there is a big leap from teaching respect and tackling discrimination to subsuming actual learning for this self-centred stuff. Anyone who disputes that should reflect on the recent NAPLAN results, which showed a continuing slide across the nation in literacy and numeracy. Perhaps the vibe of the times is that those things matter less, as long as everyone feels good about themselves.

David Penberthy is a Sunday Herald Sun columnist

Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/actual-learning-must-take-precedence-over-selfcentred-programs/news-story/1e1be0178cd433aa84aa24321bf2760b

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.”

Source: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/elizabeth-kikkert-questions-safe-schools-program-saying-children-should-be-taught-the-law-on-underage-sex-20170303-gupxab.html

Safe Schools program adopted for special needs kids

Rebecca Urban, The Australian, 2 March 2017

Teenagers with intellectual disabilities are being exposed to complex and contentious gender and sexuality theory, with a growing number of Victorian special schools incorporating the Safe Schools program into their curriculum.

Ballarat Specialist School, which caters for students with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, joined the Safe Schools Coalition late last year, according to an updated membership list seen by The Australian.

The school advised parents of the decision via the school newsletter last week, revealing it was in the process of “implementing relevant parts of the Safe Schools program … as part of our wider health curriculum”. The Ballarat school, which has 480 students aged from three to 18, is the third special school to sign up to the program, with the Victorian government confirming yesterday that special schools were not exempt from its directive that the program be mandatory by the end of 2018.

Berendale School in Hampton East is also listed on the Safe Schools register, along with Travancore School, which caters for young people undergoing treatment for mental health issues.

The creeping influence of the controversial program has raised concerns within disability circles, particularly in regard to the ability of students with special needs to comprehend some concepts ­espoused by the program.

Originally designed to stamp out homophobic bullying, Safe Schools, developed by La Trobe University, has been heavily criticised for pushing radical and contested gender and sexuality theory into classrooms.

The program’s main teaching guide, All Of Us, argues that common definitions of sexuality, gender and sex are “often limited” and suggests classroom handouts that “present more accurate definitions by showing that they exist on a spectrum rather than as absolute binaries”.

It also encourages teachers to avoid using “gendered terms”, such as “manpower” or “policeman” and recommends that “phrases like ‘ladies and gentlemen’ or ‘boys and girls’ should be avoided”.

The federal government has de-funded the program, while the Victorian government has taken over the running of it from La Trobe following controversies involving former manager Roz Ward.

Rachel Carling-Jenkins, the Democratic Labour Party member for the Western Metropolitian region, said: “We’ve got kids with learning disabilities who are having to cope with these complex concepts.

“I have no problem with sex education in schools, but this Safe Schools program goes way beyond that.”

Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling called on Premier Daniel Andrews to ­“explain why he has allowed his radical gender and sexuality Safe Schools program into the classroom with children with special needs”.

Ballarat Specialist School principal Kim Yearwood said a parent information session was scheduled for next week.

“I believe we need to value ­diversity by modelling acceptance and respect,” Ms Yearwood said.

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/education/safe-schools-program-adopted-for-special-needs-kids/news-story/3a1e4a3590a75e109ed7ca225c56d06c

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.

Source: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/mp-damien-tudehope-mp-demands-minister-should-kill-off-safe-schools/news-story/d2987ac9fa178f01fa6b79a0ef86f331

New role for Safe Schools author Joel Radcliffe

Rebecca Urban, The Australian, 17 February 2017

One of the key players in the Safe Schools program has been appoint­ed to a senior Victorian Education and Training Department position to help to manage the rollout of its similarly contentious Respectful Relationships program.

Joel Radcliffe, a former Safe Schools Coalition Victoria co-ordin­ator who co-wrote its teaching guide with outspoken Marxist activist Roz Ward, was the subject of controversy himself last year when it emerged that he had boasted publicly that parents did not have the power to shut down the so-called anti-bullying program.

The revelation comes as senior­ Education Department staff yesterday distanced themselves from the “misunderstood” program, claiming that it was merely a policy and not part of the school curriculum.

Appearing before the Victorian parliament’s public accounts and estimates committee, department secretary Gill Callister described Safe Schools as “mainstream” and revealed that Ms Ward, the program’s founding manager, was free to reapply for her job.

The Andrews government is in the process of integrating Safe Schools into the department, recently advertising for a new manager on an annual salary of $146,622 a year, as well as three program officers.

The recruitment drive will take the cost of the government’s pledge to put the program into all schools to $2.2 million over the next two years.

Education Minister James Merlino announced that the government would sever ties with La Trobe University, which had managed the government-funded program since 2010, after a string of controversies, several involving Ms Ward.

The latest, in which Ms Ward was photographed harassing a bystander at an anti-Trump rally in November, appeared to be the final straw.

Mr Radcliffe, a former teacher, is understood to have joined the Education Department in recent­ weeks. When The Australian contacted him at his office yesterday, his voicemail message revealed his role to be project leader of Respectful Relationship for the Hume Moreland ­region of Melbourne’s north.

The department declined to comment on his appointment, with a spokesman saying “employee matters are confidential”. Mr Radcliffe did not return calls.

Despite its aim of reducing family violence, Respectful Relationships has attracted similar controversy to Safe Schools due to its reliance on gender theory and feminist ideology, teaching students about male privilege and that masculinity is respons­ible for family violence.

Unlike Safe Schools, which was targeted at Year 7 students upwards, Respectful Relationships education will begin at preschool level.

The opposition’s education spokesman, Nick Wakeling, who has called for Safe Schools to be scrapped, expressed concerns about Mr Radcliffe’s move into the department.

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/education/new-role-for-safe-schools-author-joel-radcliffe/news-story/844658367ed8967df63a827dfeb32a80

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

Source: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/kevin-donnelly-whats-so-secret-about-safe-schools/news-story/35d851ba0e207f7603dc4fd95ffa5b96

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.

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/editorials/schools-so-safe-they-are-secret/news-story/ba9b15e5ab82a7fdd982eee7bf0e542e

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.

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/education/secrecy-over-safe-schools-in-nsw-criticised/news-story/7d58eeb7672fd26cdb97a2edf269b9bc