You’ve heard all the rumours.
‘It’s teaching kids how to use sex toys! It’s sexualising pre-teens! My son will have to wear a dress!’
So what’s the truth about Safe Schools? What is it? How does it work? And will it actually make a difference?
Benjamin Law is one person who was determined to get to the bottom of these questions. He recently embarked on an investigation into Safe Schools for the Quarterly Essay. His essay Moral Panic 101: Equality, Acceptance and the Safe Schools Scandal delved into the media frenzy and separated the issues into fact and fiction.
Listen: Benjamin Law talks about the Safe Schools controversy on the latest episode of This Glorious Mess.
During an interview on This Glorious Mess, Mamamia’s podcast about family life, Law told hosts Holly Wainwright and Ben Fordham what he really thinks of Safe Schools and whether we need it.
Spoiler: we do.
As a queer kid growing up in Queensland in the 80s, Law can see how the Safe Schools program could have helped confused kids like him.
“When I think about myself growing up and how lonely I felt in those years and how being gay was really the worst thing in the schoolyard, I would have really valued it,” he said.
“At 35, I am part of a generation that grew up almost pre-internet… I remember having to read about homosexuality in the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s H volume. That makes me sound like a dinosaur!”
So without further ado… Here are the facts.
What is Safe Schools?
After diving deep into the program and resulting media coverage over the past three years, Benjamin Law says he can certainly understand why it’s called the ‘controversial’ Safe Schools program. 99 per cent of people don’t actually understand what it is.
The overwhelming belief is that Safe Schools is a part of the curriculum, where all kids are taught lessons on issues surrounding the LGBTQI community. But the truth is, the program does not spill into the curriculum at all.
“All that Safe Schools is, is a resource made available to principals and teachers on how to keep LGBTQI kids safe in the schoolyard,” Law says.
“And all that’s mandatory of the schools that sign up to Safe Schools is simply signing a pledge that says ‘we as a school community vow to keep lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and questioning kids safe from homophobia.'”
That’s it. Plain and simple. And certainly no lessons on using sex toys!
Does my school have it?
At the end of 2015 amidst controversy on the issue, the federal government ceased funding of the program. Now, the program is opt-in and the only state making a commitment to Safe Schools is Victoria.