Safe Schools: Overhaul looms, transgender program could be an opt-in choice
Andrew Clennell, State Political Editor, The Daily Telegraph, 22 September 2016
PREMIER Mike Baird is considering a fundamental change to the “Safe Schools” program where parents would have to “opt in” to the program rather than the current situation where all students take part unless their parents choose to “opt out”.
The proposed change, which the Premier is understood to support, would help the government deal with controversy over the program, which educates primary and high school public students about people who are transgender.
It might also appease the Christian Democrats, who hold the balance of power in the state’s upper house.
Christian Democrat Fred Nile has come out stridently against the program.
In June, he threatened to withdraw his support for the government if it wasn’t stopped. “Everyone in the government acts as if the course is no good … but won’t take any action,” he said at the time.
“We have raised it with the Premier and I thought he would have by now issued some sort of order over the (Education) Minister (Adrian Piccoli) but he seems reluctant to have a head-on fight with him. “It must be suspended and then removed so it is no longer an approved program in NSW schools.
“I call it ‘Unsafe Schools’.”
The government is still awaiting a review from the Education department on the program, but it is understood the Premier wants change. Today, Epping Liberal MP Damien Tudehope will present a petition with 17,500 signatures to the parliament urging the NSW government to scrap the Safe Schools Curriculum entirely.
“The NSW government should abandon this program,” Mr Tudehope said.
“The state doesn’t own our children, parents are primarily responsible for the education of our children.
“We have got to be very careful about schools delivering a program which only delivers potentially one side of the story.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Piccoli yesterday would only say: “The revised Federal Government guidelines stipulate that parental consent is required for any student participation in Safe Schools program lessons or activities.
“NSW will continue to operate within the Australian Government guidelines.”
Critics of the Safe Schools program have stepped up calls for it to be axed after revelations NSW students as young as four have been receiving gender transitioning support.
The case of the four-year-old emerged during an exchange at a state government budget estimates hearing that delved into the Safe Schools program.
The Education Department’s deputy secretary of school operations Gregory Prior said the school had used Safe Schools resources to help teachers assist the child.
“We have a number of students who are going through gender transition in our schools, with the youngest being a four-year-old at the moment,” he said.
“Without breaching privacy, we have a four-year-old who is transitioning to kindergarten next year who has identified as transgender.
“The Safe Schools is only one resource that can be used from a variety of resources in how we would support that family, student and school to accommodate a child going through transition.”