A particularly concerning aspect of the Safe Schools Coalition (SSCA) program is how it can lock parents out of being able to monitor what their children are accessing online.
Material that the SSCA program directs students to advises them how to cover their internet browsing history. A consequence is that parents may not know what web-sites their children are accessing. “Cover your Tracks”, an article on the website of an organisation called Minus18 to which students are directed by SSCA advises students on “handy tips for you on keeping stealthy while browsing online.”
SSCA resource “Standout” advises students to ask teachers why websites such as Minus18 and other GLBT web-sites are blocked at school. They are also advised to ask the reasons.
This is activism which will put pressure on schools to allow access to these websites. The SSCA resource specifically says that, for some students, their family monitors access to the internet at home. The implication is that this is a reason students can say they need the website unblocked at school! (Standout, page 18)
Encouraging children to deceive or go behind their parents’ backs drives a wedge between parents and children. And, if parents do not know what their children are accessing on the internet, it undermines their ability to keep their children from influences that are not in accord with their beliefs and values and/or which could cause them harm. It restricts parents’ ability to keep their children safe.
One Minus18 article describes for female students how to bind your chest. This is a dangerous practice that can be lethal. That article also lists, under “Useful Websites”, a few “wicked websites … as somewhere to start” including the website of a sex shop named “Tool Shed” which stocks sex toys and sadomasochistic items such as restraints, gags and whips as well as pornography.
The SSCA booklet OMG im queer directs students to numerous organisations that are either LGBT specific or involved in LGBT activism. It is highly likely that students may choose Facebook or other online communities as their preferred method of connecting with some of these organisations.
The SSCA resource Gender Questioning (on page 19) recommends to students The Seahorse Club Victoria with full contact details, web address, email and phone number. The Seahorse Club recommends the nightclub/fetish club Abode as a “TG friendly venue.” Abode is located at the same physical address as the sadomasochistic venue The Parlour Lounge,which features sex rooms (“intimate play areas”).
While being “locked out” of knowing what their children might be accessing online, parents, on the other hand, are “locked in” to their children being exposed to the SSCA program if their school is a member school of SSCA.
There is no way to “opt out” as SSCA is rolled out across the whole curriculum and across all subject areas. SSCA resource “Guide to Kick Starting Your Safe School”, Point 5 says: “Actively plan to include same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse people, histories and events in your teaching area.
“Whatever the subject and your experience, there are always new ways you can better integrate diversity through case studies, texts, and other examples. Challenge gender stereotypes and heteronormativity in discussions inside or outside the classroom. All Of Us is our Health and Physical Education teaching resource mapped to the Australian Curriculum for Years 7 and 8. It utilises short videos and learning activities to introduce students to sexual diversity, gender diversity and intersex topics.”
So there is no specific class from which parents can withdraw their children. Further, in Victoria the Labor government policy is to expand the SSCA program into all state high schools by 2018. So parents won’t have a high school to choose, to avoid the SSCA program.
Victorian mother Cella White has already withdrawn her children from a state high school for this reason and sent them to a fee-paying non-government school, which is a heavy financial burden on the family. Another Victorian mother, who has five children, says she and her husband will have no choice of an SSCA-free state high school by the time their eldest child starts in a couple of years.
Again the financial burden on the family will be substantial.
What can parents do?
Parents can find out if their children’s school is a member of SSCA by searching “Member Schools” on the SSCA website. Except in Queensland where the names of the member schools are not given. Parents can then search their children’s school website to see what information, if any, the school provides on the program.
Parents can ask principals if their children’s school is a member and how the school is implementing the program and what information is given to students, what handouts/activities it uses with the students.
Education in Australia is supposed to be free, secular and compulsory. For parents who do not want their children exposed to the SSCA program, education, certainly in Victoria at least, will not be free.
They will have to pay fees to opt out of the state education system.
Education is not truly secular when any particular view on such a personal and fundamental issue as sexual identity and expression is imposed on parents even if it is opposed to their beliefs or values.
Secular should mean that no one set of beliefs is taught. And where the SSCA program is effectively compulsory that is small comfort for those parents who do not want it for their children.
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