Anti-bullying seems like a positive motive to initiate any program into the schooling program. With bullying at the forefront of many schooling systems (particularly with the rise of cyber bullying), it seems only natural to want to find a way out of it. Safe Schools Australia was initiated as a system to stop bullying in Australian schools, but, over its time, has instead received a large dose of criticism.
Safe Schools is a federally funded program that started in 2013, intended as an anti-bullying scheme for schools. Its purpose was to give funding to public schools that would help train and give resources to teachers and staff to help educate students on the LGBTQI community. Safe Schools had hopes to help curb the harmful bullying that has, even in recent times, lead to children developing mental illnesses and, in some drastic cases, suicide.
Although, since the introduction of the program, there has been heavy debates regarding whether the program is right for Australia. Here’s what you need to know.
The argument for:
Safe schools is intended to be an inclusive program that will help remove the tension between heteronormative members of the community and the LGBTQI community. Due to lack of understanding and education, many students can feel threatened by unfamiliar ideas such as homosexuality, and thus act out by bullying and ostracising others. The program intends to educate students in a positive way so that they don’t feel inclined to spread hate in the schoolyard.
Another other use for the program is to help children, who may feel alone or at a loss, to understand why they may be feeling in a certain way, and give them a support system to help them get through difficulties facing gender or sexuality.
The argument against:
Those against the idea of Safe Schools believe the program is enforcing politics where it shouldn’t be placed. The argument stands that the discussion regarding the LGBTQI community should be left for parents to give when they feel their student is ready.
The other problem is that parents feel students are too young to be learning these issues. Many conservatives believe that the program may also give ideas to students that may influence them to want to make drastic changes in their own life that may not be as easily reversed (such as the age-old argument of children undergoing sex-reassignment surgery).
Where it goes from here:
For now, the nation-wide funding will expire in 2017, with no indications that it will be continued. Major changes were made to the initial program including excluding it to secondary schooling, and enforcing parent’s permission before a student could attend classes. So, this leaves the decision of continuing the program up to state governments. In most cases, schools will volunteer to practice the program, where, once they join, they will be given the appropriate material to train teachers and staff.
The states that practice the Safe Schools program the most include Victoria, with 284 publicly listed schools, while the NT is the least successful having no publicly listed Safe Schools. The program has good intentions, but with little approval, we will have to work as a community to teach children the side effects of bullying.
If you’re interested in learning more about Safe Schools Coalition Australia, check out their website here.