Safe Schools program used in few schools, still concerns

Education: The Safe Schools program created plenty of debate last year. Pictured is a pro-Safe Schools rally near Melbourne last March. Picture: File

Education: The Safe Schools program created plenty of debate last year. Pictured is a pro-Safe Schools rally near Melbourne last March. Picture: File

The State Opposition has blasted a decision which prevents parents being able to publicly find out which schools teach the controversial Safe Schools program, focused on sexuality and gender education.

Concerns have been raised about information not being shared publicly, as to which schools teach the program in the Sutherland Shire and St George area.

However, the NSW Department of Education says it is important not to disclose that information publicly, as it could lead to harassment of students or schools.

State Labor MLC Greg Donnelly said up until the middle of last year parents could go online and see which schools taught the program in the area.

“Last year up until July 8, mums and dads could go to the Safe Schools website and see if the school they sent their children to was participating in the program,” Mr Donnelly said. 

“Then, on July 8, 2016 it all went mysteriously blank.

“The list of schools disappeared from the website and has not been seen since. At the time of being taken down there were 121 public schools across NSW that were listed as having joined the Safe Schools program.”

He went on to condemn the content of the program calling it “radical sexuality and gender ideology under the guise of an anti-bullying program”.

A NSW Department of Education spokesperson said Safe Schools Coalition Australia provided material which was an optional resource for schools.

“Parents can contact schools directly to find out if they are using Safe Schools resources with students in class,” the spokesperson said.

The department said publicly disclosing the list of participating schools could lead to harassment.

“[It would] prejudice the effective exercise by those schools of their responsibilities in relation to student safety, welfare and well being and would enable students to be identified and consequently put them at risk of harm, serious harassment or serious intimidation.”

Mr Donnelly attacked Coalition MPs, from within the region, for not taking a stand against the removal of the list of participating schools.

Oatley Liberal MP Mark Coure said it was not a NSW Government initiative. 

“The NSW Government and the NSW Department of Education do not fund Safe Schools,” Mr Coure said. 

“The Safe Schools resources are a national initiative funded by the Australian Government.

“It is a resource accessed and mostly used by teachers and it is used in less than 1 per cent of high schools in NSW.

“In all schools where it is used in the classroom, we are assured parents are fully informed in advance, and can opt their children out.

“I support parents right to opt their children out if they wish to do so.”

The Safe Schools program drew widespread criticism when it was introduced, which led to an independent review last year. 

Changes were made to the program following the review, including removing content and making it only accessible for secondary schools.

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