An anti-same sex marriage group has warned that a program meant to discourage LGBTI bullying in Australian schools may be a form of "homosexual recruitment".
Australian Marriage Forum (AMF) president Dr David van Gend released a statement Wednesday questioning the material from the Safe Schools Coalition, which supports same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students. He said most gay students "get over their confusion and go straight," but that the Safe Schools program tries to "lock them into this confusion".
“The question is whether the Safe Schools material amounts to a calculated homosexual recruitment programme," he said.
“All forms of bullying at school can be addressed by a comprehensive programme; we do not need radically sexualised, frankly indecent material like this being snuck in under the cloak of 'bullying prevention'."
The AMF criticism followed a story in The Australian newspaper Wednesday which detailed a suggested teaching activity in a Safe Schools resource designed for students in years 7 and 8. The activity method recommends inviting students to:
"...imagine themselves in the role of a young person who is aged 16 years or older and is going out with someone they are really into. Advise students that they should not play themselves in this activity. Rather, encourage them to imagine themselves in someone else’s shoes. Tell students on the left-hand side of the room that their character is going out with someone of the same sex, while the character of those on the right-hand side of the room is going out with someone of the opposite sex."
Another resource provided by Safe Schools suggests educational institutions inject diverse LGBTI case studies into a range of school subjects, allow students to set up "queer-straight alliances" and encourages teachers to speak-out against homophobic and transphobic language in the playground.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has also been a strident critic of the program. ACL spokesperson Wendy Francis warned Wednesday that Safe Schools is "unwittingly acting as agents for rainbow activists, giving age inappropriate material to their students" and is a "ham-fisted attempt to change our culture".
Australian Secondary Principals’ Association Rob Nairn spoke out in support of Safe Schools Coalition last month, saying he was proud to lend his support to its important work in partnering with schools across the country to create more inclusive environments for LGBTI students, staff and families.
"Research suggests that homophobic and transphobic bullying and discrimination is likely to be going on in our schools and we must be proactive at addressing this behaviour that is impacting the health and wellbeing of our students and their educational outcome," he said.
The Greens described criticism of the program from groups like the ACL as "fear-mongering".
“The idea that simply by talking about differences in sexuality and gender identity, you’re going to ‘recruit’ young people is completely ridiculous," Greens Senator Robert Simms said.
"It’s time for the ACL to stop legitimising the bullying and exclusion of LGBTI young people and abandon their crusade against the Safe Schools Coalition.”
Studies have shown same sex-attracted youth experience higher rates of poor mental health compared to their heterosexual counterparts. They are up to six times more likely to suffer from depression and up to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide.
Greens Senator Janet Rice, who is married to a trans woman, said young LGBTI people need support at school to help counter poor mental health.
“High school is such a critical time in everyone’s lives, let alone the lives of young trans, intersex and gender diverse people,” Senator Rice said.
“A third of trans young people have attempted suicide as a result of transphobia. Any reduction of the work of the Safe Schools Coalition because of lobbying against it could have tragic consequences.
“We commend the Safe Schools Coalition and all schools that have implemented this vital program for their commitment to ending discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people and their families.”
Last year, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews backed the Safe Schools Coalition in Victoria and announced the program would be implemented at every Victorian government secondary school.
“Every young person has a right to be who they are and every young person has a right to feel safe in the schoolyard," Andrews said at the time.
“The Safe Schools Coalition will use the power of education to promote diversity and greater understanding in our schools and in our communities.”
SBS rejected an anti-same sex marriage advertisement from the AMF in 2015 which was requested to run during our broadcast of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.
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