Safe Schools Coalition is under attack
The Safe Schools Coalition which recently lauched in Canberra by Sexual Health & Family Planning ACT is under attack by Christian groups. Groups like Family Voice and the Australian Christian Lobby have launched a campaign against the program and are busy recruiting people of faith and MPs to their cause.
The attack began in Tasmania with a number of religious leaders writing an open letter to schools urging them not to participate in the SSP.
In response, a letter endorsing the program, signed by prominent education, mental health and child's rights advocates was also sent to schools.
The campaign has now spread to WA where far right law-maker, Peter Abetz, has briefed other MPs about the dangers of the SSP to students who he believes would otherwise grow out of being gay.
The attacks are predictable: the SSP encourages students to experiment with sex (no, it trains teachers to better handle bullying); the SSP has a narrow focus on a tiny minority of students (no, it deals with prejudice that underpins up to half of all bullying in schools).
The objections are easily dismissed, but not so, the unprecedented effort being put into making them.
Perhaps what riles the far right is that the SSP involves much more money than previous programs, has the imprimatur of state and federal Liberal governments and is generally more mainstream.
The SSP focus on gender diversity seems to make groups like FV and the ACL particularly angry.
Perhaps this aspect of the Safe Schools Program is an affront to their bizarre anti-marriage equality theology that makes the traditional gender binary between male and female the organising principle of the universe.
Whatever the reason for attacks on the SSP, there needs to be a more organised response.
My fear is that if critics succeed in discouraging school participation in Tasmania and WA they will seek to do the same in other states.
At a national level the SSP needs to be visibly backed by the same mainstream advocates who have backed it in Tasmania.
Grassroots LGBTI people, teachers and concerned citizens need to be mobilised in its defence.
Through effective evaluation, we need to be able to show that the SSP demonstrably reduces prejudice and bullying in schools.
The SSP needs a network of defenders across Australia. If you’re interested in being part of it, let me know.