The Australian – February 14, 2016
Education Minister Simon Birmingham has defended the objectives of a controversial school program that teaches high school students about sexual diversity and inclusion.
The anti-bullying program, used by nearly 500 schools around Australia, educates 11- and 12-year-old children about the meaning of terms such as “queer’’, “pansexual’’, “sister girl’’ and “trans guy’’.
The Safe Schools Coalition program also includes a role-playing exercise in which 11- and 12-year-olds are encouraged to put themselves in the boots of a young person dating a same-sex partner.
Senator Birmingham, interviewed on Sky News’s Australian Agenda, said the program had “perfectly reasonable objectives” although some of the language was “not at a level that you would expect” for the classroom.
He stressed that the program, introduced and funded by the previous Labor government, allowed schools “complete autonomy” to choose how much they used the program, if at all.
“The objectives I think are perfectly reasonable objectives; there should be no more a place for homophobia in our schools than there is for racism in our schools, and we should be ensuring that every student is taught key attitudes around tolerance and acceptance of others,” he said.
Senator Birmingham said he would “certainly” examine the program’s content and structure when the funding expires in the coming years to end the “unhelpful” controversy.
“These types of debates … are very unhelpful because the debate that seems to be occurring in the public space is one of whether or not we should be teaching inclusiveness and tolerance in our schools. Well that’s a pretty foolish debate to be having,” he said.
Australian Christian Lobby spokeswoman Wendy Frances last week argued the Safe Schools material “discriminates’’ against heterosexual kids.
“This is bullying in reverse,’’ she says. “A lot of children are still pretty innocent about this stuff; there’s a lot in the program that is age-inappropriate. We don’t want kids having to think about sex all the time at school.’’