The NSW government is resisting pressure to cancel a program that targets homophobia and transphobia in schools.
The Proud Schools program, introduced by the Keneally Labor government in early 2011, aims to reduce homophobia in the schoolyard by educating high-school students and staff on same-sex attraction and gender issues. It is currently being trialled in 12 schools around the state.
Christian lobby group FamilyVoice Australia is pressuring the government to remove the program and has sent out an open letter to mobilise its members against it.
The letter, which FamilyVoice is encouraging its members to send to Premier Barry O’Farrell and all state MPs, urges the government to cancel the Proud Schools program because it is “aimed at normalising homosexuality” and claims that homophobic bullying is “not a big problem” in schools.
A spokesman for NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said that the program was here to stay.
“NSW is committed to an education system free from discrimination including sexual orientation discrimination,” the spokesman said.
“Proud Schools was initiated by the former Labor government late in 2010 and we continue to support the initiative.”
While the program was proposed by the Labor government just months before it was ousted in March 2011, the trial program received bipartisan support and has operated almost exclusively under the O’Farrell Coalition government.
A similar program, the Safe Schools Coalition, was introduced in Victoria by the Brumby Labor government in October 2010. It has since been expanded to over 70 schools under the Liberal Baillieu government.
Sydney state MP Alex Greenwich said the attempt to shut Proud Schools down was sorely misguided.
“Proud Schools is a vitally important initiative and should be expanded. For FamilyVoice to seek the program be abandoned is mean-spirited and misrepresents Christian beliefs, of which tolerance and compassion are key,” Greenwich said.
“I am confident the NSW Government will ignore this cruel request that comes from an increasingly fringe organisation.”
In October the state government and other politicians reacted angrily after the Daily Telegraph’s Miranda Devine described the Proud Schools program as a government attempt to make heterosexuality a “thought crime”.
A spokesperson from the Proud Schools ministerial advisory committee said the program would come under review after the trial period concluded later this year.