The state government’s decision to ban an anti-homophobia teaching resource is disgraceful and cowardly, according to the NSW Teachers Federation.
The Federation’s comments came as NSW Education minister Carmel Tebbutt attempted to clarify her position, saying homophobic behaviour in schools was unacceptable but that the banned material was inappropriate.
The material was used during a lesson titled Dealing With Difference by a school in western Sydney. Year Nine students were asked to imagine they lived in a gay world where straight people were bullied and discriminated against, in a bid to show them what life can be like for homosexuals.
Despite the fact there had been no complaints from parents, students or teachers at the school, when the government was informed The Daily Telegraph was running a story about the lesson on its front page this week, the material was banned from future use.
It’s a disgraceful and cowardly decision by the minister for Education in this state, president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maree O’Halloran, told Sydney Star Observer.
The program fits clearly within the Board of Studies syllabuses and the Department of Education and Training guidelines. Those teaching materials and that program have been up on the Department of Education’s website for other teachers to use, because it’s been deemed to be such a good unit of work.
O’Halloran said the minister had banned the material because she’s afraid of The Daily Telegraph, there is no other answer.
A spokesperson for Tebbutt told the Star it was not the minister who banned the syllabus, it was the Department of Education.
She added: The minister is fully supportive of teaching tolerance and diversity in our schools.
The spokesperson sent a two-page document to the Star outlining a number of Department of Education programs used in schools to combat homophobia.
One of these programs was the Anti-Bullying Plan which required all schools to develop strategies to address forms of harassment including bullying about a student’s homosexuality.
The document also stated students were taught about the effects of homophobic bullying and discrimination from Years Seven to Ten in personal development and health classes.
The spokesperson said last month’s Writing Themselves In Again report by La Trobe University -“ a national report on the wellbeing of same-sex attracted young Australians -“ reminds us of the need to ensure all students are supported to learn and achieve positive educational outcomes in a safe learning environment.
It is up to schools to make decisions about the most appropriate content and timing of lessons about sexual health and sexuality.
Tebbutt said the particular scenario used in the class was taken from a book by American author Brian McNaught that was not endorsed by the Department of Education.
Federal Education minister Dr Brendan Nelson supported the ban, saying Year Nine students were too young to be taught such complex issues.
The material at that age is as unacceptable as prejudice and vilification of homosexual people in adult life, he said.
The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby slammed the decision, with co-convenor David Scamell saying the banned material was simply trying to make students aware of some of the isolation young gay people feel growing up in our society.
Vicki Harding, author of the Learn To Include books for preschool children, which feature same-sex parents, said she was in despair about an education system that takes its lead from the media and responds in such a knee-jerk fashion.