A NATIONAL anti-bullying campaign for LGBTI youth has come under attack by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), who have urged the federal Education Minister to defund the organisation of its $8 million funding
In a press release circulated yesterday, ACL Queensland director Wendy Francis stated several claims for their call to have Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA) defunded, including its supposed promotion of “queer sex” to children and promotion of “radical sexual experimentation in…schools”.
[showads ad=MREC]“Bullying for any reason is wrong and should be combatted (sic) but teaching primary school students about ‘queer sex’ and cross-dressing without parental permission is not the way to do this,” Francis said.
Drawing upon examples from SSCA’s OMG I’m Queer publication, Francis said children were being too exposed.
“Our society is already over-sexualised without extreme sexual material and gender theory being promoted in schools,” she said.
“Children have the right to their innocence. The political ideology carried by this program denies children this right.” Francis added.
Speaking in her capacity as a trans* and youth advocate, journalist Kate Doak told the Star Observer that SSCA’s fundamental goal is to provide educators with material and resources to combat bullying of LGBTI-identifying students.
“As multiple peer-reviewed studies have shown, LGBTIQ children are amongst the most vulnerable to such forms of abuse, while simply just trying to live their own personal truths,” Doak said.
“Whether we like it or not, LGBTIQ youth exist, and by providing resources that help both teachers and students to create more inclusive schools, programs like SSCA are ultimately saving lives by letting kids know that it’s okay to be themselves.”
Doak’s comments echo the sentiment expressed by the SSCA itself when it spoke to the Star Observer.
“Research shows that 75 per cent of LGBTI young people youth experience homophobic or transphobic abuse and discrimination,” an SSCA spokesperson said.
“80 per cent of that abuse will happen in school, a place where young people should feel free to be themselves while they focus on learning and achieving their very best.”
Francis also claimed that promotion of trans* rights and inclusion of students questioning their gender or undergoing transition puts the safety of children at risk when using bathrooms.
“Girls’ toilets should always be a safe place for them and should be off limits to a boy who might be transitioning into a girl,” she said.
Doak rejected Francis’ claims, adding that continuing to “demonise” young trans* people only adds to the stigma, discrimination and higher rates of mental and physical harm experienced by trans* people.
“Transgender children have never been a threat to other youth and solely utilise toilets in the same way that everybody else does. Specifically, to relieve themselves of bodily wastes and get out,” said Doak, who is also on the SSCA board.
“The demonisation of transgender youth who’ve been diagnosed by accredited medical practitioners as having gender dysphoria is both cruel and unjust.
“It can also lead to serious medical problems, given that transgender children have previously avoided going to the toilet at school, because of the psychological trauma that using a toilet that doesn’t correspond with their identity can bring.”
The ACL and Francis also accuse SSCA of involving children directly in political action, specifically the “push to abolish husband and wife from the marriage act”.
They also did not condemn some Catholic Church dioceses for recently distributing anti-same-sex marriage booklets to school children across Australia last month.
According to Doak, discussion surrounding sexual contact between LGBTI people in the OMG I’m Queer – produced by Victorian LGBTI youth organisation Minus18 and highlighted by the ACL as examples of sexualisation of children – provides young people with a resource to “explore who they are”.
“Given that LGBTIQ-related issues have historically been ignored within sex education classes at schools across Australia, discussing how all youth can explore who they are safely is neither ‘inappropriate’ nor ‘radical’,” Doak said.
“Furthermore, LGBTIQ youth should have the right to produce said resources in ways that are most applicable to them going forward.”
Whether there should be a review into the material provided to schools by the program, Doak said the SSCA reviews its content and material regularly.
“SSCA continuously reviews its activities and the production of its various resources in a highly professional manner to reflect the continuously growing demand for evidence-based information by teachers, parents and students alike and will continue to do so,” she said.
The SSCA spokesperson said their materials and resources are based on evidence and academic research to promote the well-being of LGBTI young people and has been widely accepted and utilised by many schools across the country.
“SSCA uses a whole of school approach to support school staff, students and families to challenge bullying and discrimination,” the spokesperson said.
“Our approach draws on research and evidence on how we can best promote a focus on safety and the protection of young people in schools while at the same time promoting inclusion and acceptance.
“Research shows that students at safe and supportive schools have better educational outcomes and are less likely to have poor mental health,
“The program has been endorsed and welcomed by principals, teachers, parents, students, and education bodies across Australia for the work we are doing to prevent bullying and create safe and inclusive school communities.”
The Education Minister Christopher Pyne was contacted for comment but did not respond by time of publication.[showads ad=FOOT]