Make schools genuinely safe
The Australian, 17 April 2017
For many children and teenagers, bullying causes intense anxiety. What has long been a serious problem has become more acute in recent years through the relentless, round-the-clock reach of digital technology and social media. It warrants effective tackling, without the gender fluidity ideology that is the hallmark of the so-called Safe Schools program, exposed in all its extremism in the news pages of The Australian over the past year. To the relief of many parents, NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes is replacing Safe Schools — which the Turnbull government will not fund after June 30 — with a proper anti-bullying program from term 3. Other states should do the same. If they won’t, opposition parties should make the issue a priority, especially in Victoria where the Andrews government encourages the indoctrination of students, from the age of four, with Marxist-driven fringe views of gender and sexuality. Guilt-tripping boys for being boys and girls for being girls has no place in schools.
To his credit, Mr Stokes has made it clear the NSW government is committed to making sure schools are supportive of students who are struggling. Bullying, he said yesterday, will never be accepted in NSW public schools, whether it’s because “someone is overweight, gay, based on the colour of their skin or for any other reason”. Or often, for no apparent reason. Bullies pick their quarry out of spite, cruelty, envy, revenge after friendships and teenage romances fall apart and for a myriad other motives, from being “nerdish’’ to having crooked teeth. Those targeted, who can be vulnerable and sensitive, need support in dealing with the problem. Perpetrators need discipline. Sometimes they also need help to resolve the inadequacies driving their bad behaviour. If the new program is well conducted there is no reason lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex students or any other group of students should feel unprotected. Effective discipline, including an emphasis on good manners, courtesy and the acceptance of individual differences, should help all students. They must also be taught to recognise the pitfalls of sharing too much in cyberspace and understand the need for downtime from mobile phones and social media. Some parents also need practical advice on guiding their children in such matters. School cultures in which each individual is valued and encouraged to reach their potential academically, in sport, music or other co-curricular activities, are also important in discouraging bullying. Better efforts must also be made to help deradicalise Muslim students, either through the new program or another.
Bill Shorten showed yesterday how far Labor has strayed from its traditional base when he complained Safe Schools had “ been made a political football by conservative critics’’. Yet again, the Opposition Leader is pandering to inner-city leftists rather than families in working-class suburbs, many of whom recognise the sham inherent in Safe Schools. The program was devised under the Gillard government and launched under the Abbott government in mid -2014 by Senator Scott Ryan, parliamentary secretary to the then education minister, Christopher Pyne. As Tony Abbott says, Safe Schools was “a social engineering program dressed up as anti-bullying’’. It should never have been imposed by any government. Young people will be well rid of it.