Dear Safe Schools Coalition,
I understand it’s been a big week for you, with so much media exposure. No doubt you’re feeling under the spotlight.
And yet, you’re determined to continue your work, which you describe as:
[M] aking a difference in the lives of thousands of young people across Australia by saying no to homophobic and transphobic behaviour and implementing practical steps to foster safe, positive and supportive schools for everyone’.
I certainly support the aim of ending bullying, and making school a positive experience for everyone: that’s a very worthwhile goal, if ever there was one.
And yet, after reading some of your recommended material for public school students, I’ve become concerned: concerned about your material’s appropriateness for a public school setting.
(Not least because I too have children in a local public school).
And so I’ve got a few questions for you, which I’d love you to answer.
These are as follows:
1) Do you think it’s possible to love and support LGBTI students, and yet have a different view of sexuality and gender?
As I said, I love the fact that you’re against bullying, and that you want all students to be supported.
But your material seems to assume that the only way to support LGBTI students is to agree with, and celebrate the LGBTI view of sexuality and gender.
Am I right in saying that?
Or do you think it’s possible to love someone in a very real way, even though you might hold different views about deeply personal issues, such as sexuality and gender?
2) Must all school students at a ‘Safe School’ subscribe to the LGBTI (non-hetero-normative) view of sexuality/gender, in order to create a safe environment for LGBTI students?
One criticism raised against the Safe Schools curriculum is that your material goes beyond ‘let’s stop bullying LGBTI people’, to promoting the LGBTI view of gender and sexuality in public schools.
With respect, after looking at your material, I found it hard to disagree with this allegation.
But does a school community need to accept the LGBTI view of sexuality/gender, for it to be considered a welcoming place for LGBTI students?
To use a similar example, would a public school with Muslim students need to accept the Islamic worldview (e.g. ‘there is no God but Allah, and Muhammed is his messenger’) for it to be considered a welcoming and supportive place for Muslim students?
Or can there be worldview diversity amongst the student body (including on sexuality/gender matters), with the school still being a supportive place for all students?
3) Do students at a ‘Safe School’ have a right to hold their own diverse views about sexuality/gender, and openly express those views, without pressure or vilification?
As you know, students in our public schools come from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds: many of these students and their parents have different views about gender and sexuality than the Safe Schools material.
But do Safe Schools respect these student’s rights to hold their own views, and express those views in appropriate and civil ways?
Or is there pressure in Safe Schools – whether from the school or the student body – to accept only your account of gender and human sexuality (with administrative or social consequences (e.g. bullying from peers) if a student expresses a different view)?
4) If a student identifies as transgender, how do you care for them?
[Chest binding] has a level of risk attached to it… it has the potential to be lethal.’
Yet nowhere on that web-page does it even recommend getting medical advice before undergoing such a procedure.
That raises some very urgent questions for me:
Where’s the duty of care to these very vulnerable young people?
Wouldn’t medical ethics demand that student’s wellbeing only be managed with the support of their parents, the school, and health professionals, and not through DIY website advice?
Why partner with a website that recommends procedures – without medical supervision – that could be extremely harmful to young people’s health?
Parents Are Understandably Concerned.
We want all students to be safe at school and free from bullying, whatever their identity. But my concern is that your material risks not only causing harm to some of the vulnerable LGBTI students (e.g. through the minus18 website), but it also creates another class of ‘outcasts’, whose only crime is to hold a different view of sexuality/gender than Safe Schools.
A Different Way Ahead That We Can Both Agree On?
In our pluralistic society, wouldn’t it be better to help students respect other people simply because they’re people, who have intrinsic worth (whom Christians believe are made in God’s image)? Surely this would prepare them well to live as tolerant citizens in a pluralistic society – where they’ll rub shoulders with people of all sorts of different views and identities.
Looking forward to your reply,
UPDATE: Friday 19th Feb, 4pm.
Maggie Hill from Safe Schools Coalition was kind enough to get back to me.
Thanks for getting in touch re SSCA. The fast facts page on FYA’s website should provide answers to some of the questions you have raised on your website. http://www.fya.org.au/2016/02/12/fast-facts-about-safe-schools-coalition-australia/
Feel free to get in touch if you need anything further.
Whilst the resource does provide some explanation, I don’t feel it addresses my questions directly enough, so have asked Maggie for more specific answers to my particular questions.
I’ll update as more information arrives.