Christian values: Conservatives force the review of a school program promoting acceptance
Feb 25, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
A school program promoting acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students has been suspended by the Government in a victory for conservative lobbyists.
Education unions and state and territory leaders have slated the Prime Minister for caving to pressure from his party’s right following the announcement that the Safe Schools teaching manual would be reviewed.
The move was hailed as a “win against rainbow ideology” by the Australian Christian Lobby, a vocal critic of Newtown Performing Arts High School’s decision this week to let students choose to wear male or female uniforms and express the gender they identify with.
An independent review panel will now advise education minister Simon Birmingham by mid-March on whether the program's material is age-appropriate.
Senator Cory Bernardi led a group of conservative powerbrokers calling for the $8 million program to be defunded because of fears it was sexualising children and would "indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism".
"It's not about gender, it's not about sexuality,” he told the ABC.
"It makes everyone fall into line with a political agenda.
"Our schools should be places of learning, not indoctrination."
Opposition leader Bill Shorten, who labelled Mr Bernardi a homophobe during a clash at parliament house on Wednesday, said: “Labor believes every child, in every school has the right to be happy and safe.
“Malcolm Turnbull needs to show some leadership and pull Cory Bernardi and the right wing of his party into line.”
About 500 schools have voluntarily signed up to the Safe Schools Coalition Australia, which aims to eradicate homophobia and transphobia in schools.
State and territory governments have criticised the Government’s decision to review the program, saying the anti-bullying and pro-diversity initiative has been effective in protecting vulnerable children.
South Australian education minister, Susan Close, said: “I am bitterly disappointed that the prime minister has raised questions about the merits of the Safe Schools Coalition.
“This is a program devoted to countering the bullying of children whose emerging sexuality and gender identification can make them vulnerable, isolated and at times at risk of self harm.
“Children in this situation deserve our support and protection, not more bullying by politicians.”
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said: “Schools have to be a safe place for every kid - no exceptions.
“Teachers have to be given the tools to deal with every situation - no excuses.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with this effective little program, which achieves the above two aims and nothing more.”
Senator Bernardi claims he has collected 9,500 signatures in less than a week on a petition protesting against the program.
President of the Australian Education Union, Correna Haythorpe, argues it was only implemented in schools after extensive consultation with parents and the school community.
“All young people should be able to feel safe and supported at school, and this program is helping to do this,” she said.