Since Friday July 8, the names of NSW member schools of the Safe Schools Coalition (SSCA) no longer appear on the SSCA website. They have been taken down. (“NSW schools ‘harassed’ into hiding: youth foundation”, The Weekend Australian, July 16).
A graffitist has been keeping up with
developments at Cheltenham
Parents in NSW who wish to know if their child’s school is on the SSCA list of member schools are no longer able to do so by the simple click of the mouse on the website. Instead they are informed: “In NSW, school principals decide how they promote their work with external service providers. If you would like to find out if your school is working with the Safe Schools Coalition, please contact your school administration office.”
Why is this information being made more difficult to access? Why should parents not be able to simply check on the Safe Schools website if their child’s school is a member?
Parents have a right to know what their children are being taught at school. They have a prior right to the education of their children under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26 (3): “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”); and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 18.4: “[Parents have] the liberty … to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”)
This action on the part of Safe Schools contravenes parents’ rights. What has Safe Schools got to hide?
In Queensland the names of member schools have not been provided on the SSCA website for some time. The number of member schools was listed but no longer is. As in NSW, parents are advised to contact the school to find out if the school is an SSCA member.
Conflicting reasons have been given for taking down the names of member schools. A spokesperson for the NSW Education Department said the names of the NSW schools had been taken down because of inaccuracies. SSCA convenor, the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), said it was because of “harassment” of schools. No details of that “harassment” were given.
The number of member schools was recorded as 411, down from 545 as at the end of June. FYA said there had not been any decrease in membership, that there had been an administrative error. The number was recorded as 545 again after The Australian had spoken to an FYA spokesperson to ask for an explanation.
It is outrageous that parents in NSW and Queensland cannot check on the Safe Schools website whether their child’s school is a member. Parents have the right to know what their children are being taught in school.
Further developments in the SSCA saga
An elite girls’ high school in Sydney has been in the news for requesting that staff stop referring to the students as girls, ladies or women. They are to use gender-neutral terms instead. (Miranda Devine, The Daily Telegraph, July 19).
No such terms were suggested in media reports of the incident. Perhaps they should be addressed as “students” or “humans” or “school attendees” or “members of the student community”!
This is taking gender neutrality to absurd lengths and all to stamp out “heteronormativity”. Does the name of the school, “Cheltenham Girls High School” also have to be changed? It can’t have “girls” in the name, can it? In battling “heteronormativity” perhaps there can’t be “girls” or “boys” high schools at all.
NSW Liberal MP Damien Tudehope has had complaints from parents at another school in his electorate with similar concerns.
Parents at Cheltenham Girls High School have started a petition saying that their children feel marginalised and excluded if they don’t want to participate in GLBT activities such as Rainbow Day and Purple Day.
Education Minister Adrian Picoli has asked his department to investigate the complaints.
The Guardian on July 20 contradicted Miranda Devine’s report that teachers at Cheltenham Girls High School were told not to refer to the students as “girls”, “ladies” or “women”.
No source for the contradiction of Miranda Devine’s report was given. It may have come from an anonymous post on the Cheltenham Girls High School Facebook page.
Susan Bridge, the principal of the school, had no comment to make when asked about the story when it first broke.
It is welcome that the discussion on the Safe Schools program is opening up to include the impact has on all parties – non-GLBT students, their parents, and teachers – not only on GLBT students.
It is clear that Safe Schools is about more than anti-bullying.