The South Australian Liberal Party has announced it plans to scrap Safe Schools for the state if elected, saying they will introduce a broader anti-bullying program.

The party said the current program’s focus is too narrow and emphasises LGBTI students too much, ABC News has reported.

“It’s got a very narrow focus in dealing with the particular needs of students identifying as LGBTI,” said opposition spokesperson John Gardner.

“[But] there are a whole range of students suffering from bullying in our schools.

“The Safe Schools program, it’s been discredited for a range of reasons, but particularly it doesn’t include curriculum resources in the South Australian version, and it doesn’t deal with the needs of a great many of the students who are bullied.”

The Liberal Party promised to introduce a new anti-bullying program inclusive of more students, focusing on broad issues including cyber bullying.

However, Education Minister Susan Close said their plan was a mere copy of Safe Schools.

“The Liberals have essentially copied everything that’s already occurring in schools, except that they’re pretending homophobic bullying doesn’t exist,” she said.

“This shows that [opposition leader] Steven Marshall is worried about his conservative base and is giving into their voices.”

The Australian Services Union, which represents workers responsible for Safe Schools in South Australia, has spoken out against the Liberals’ plan to abandon Safe Schools.

“LGBTI young people are some of the most vulnerable and at risk in our community,” said SA and NT branch secretary Joseph Scales.

“Safe Schools is about building understanding and social acceptance, administered by experienced community services workers.

“The Liberals have turned this into some kind of political culture war, a further kick to the young people who benefit from the initiative and the professionals who deliver it.

“New funding to combat cyber bullying in our community would be welcomed, but certainly not at the expense of the wellbeing of such at-risk young people.”

The Australian Education Union has also condemned the move.

“The Safe Schools program has provided teachers with a valuable means of educating students and staff to accept all people as they are,” said SA branch president Howard Spreadbury.

“Any expansion of the program to address the issue of cyber bullying would be a positive move, but to abandon the Safe Schools program would have a disastrous effect on one of our most vulnerable groups of young people.”

In Victoria, the Liberals have similarly promised to scrap Safe Schools if elected, while the Minister for Equality this week issued a guarantee that Labor would continue to fund the program.

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