Safe Schools policy concerns Cheltenham Girls High School parents
A GROUP of parents wrote to Cheltenham Girls’ High School principal Susan Bridge this week asking why they were not told of the introduction of the controversial Safe Schools policy.
The group of about 20 sets of parents signed the same letter, following concerns that students who choose not to participate in activities supporting sexuality and gender-diverse people can be marginalised.
The parents said theme days at the school such as Wear It Purple Day, which supports people of different sexualities and genders, were a result of the policy.
Safe Schools is a national framework promoting student wellbeing and aims to prevent bullying and violence.
Critics claim it focuses too heavily on gender and sexual diversity and could confuse children as to their identity.
One parent, who asked not to be named, said students’ decisions on whether to participate in optional activities aligned with Safe Schools needed to be respected.
“It’s important it goes both ways – that the people who support (the program) are respected and the people who choose not to are respected,” she said.
“Otherwise that opinion can be labelled as homophobic.”
The parents’ letter comes in the wake of a media report last week that said staff had been instructed to stop referring to students as girls and women, and instead to use gender-neutral terms.
This was part of the Safe Schools agenda to support gender diverse students, according to the report.
P&C president Jim Kalotheos said there was no truth that teachers had been asked to use gender-neutral terms.
“(Ms Bridge) told me they haven’t made any directive to teachers,” he said.
Mr Kalotheos said he had been unaware of parents with Safe Schools concerns and no one had raised any at P&C meetings. He did not believe students were being marginalised.
“From what I understand from speaking to my daughters, it’s completely optional if they want to participate in days like Wear It Purple Day,” he said.
“It’s not mandatory participation, as far as I’m aware.
“In my experience, the school has always been an inclusive, kind environment where children are encouraged to come up with their own ideas in charitable pursuits.”
Mr Kalotheos said he was unaware of requirements for parents to be notified of Safe Schools introduction and was unsure why the parents with concerns did not raise them through the P&C.
A Department of Education spokesman said gender-specific terms would continue to be used by the school.
He said the school was a signatory to the Safe Schools Coalition but had not used its resources in delivering the curriculum.