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The Safe Schools LGBTI controversy

NEWS

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Eternity provides a quick guide to the Safe Schools resource which seeks to end bullying of LGBTI students and has caused a media storm today. We’re currently collecting commentary from leading Christians who are analysing the teaching materials, and will publish those thoughts in the next 24 hours.

What is the Safe Schools’ All Of Us resource trying to achieve?

The Safe Schools Coalition who is behind the All Of Us teaching resource, aims to create “safe and more inclusive” school environments for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students. It is funded by the Federal Government.

The All Of Us resource encourages students to be allies for their LGBTI peers.

“A great ally does » Respect their friend’s confidentiality » Stand up for LGBTI students if they are being bullied » Have an open mind » Talk about relationships in a way that is inclusive of LGBTI people » Respect their friend’s decision to come out or not » Tries to only use the name, pronouns, and identity labels an LGBTI person asks them to.” 

“A great ally does not » Keep saying “that’s so gay” » Stereotype people » Assume their friends are only attracted to the opposite sex/gender » Deliberately use the wrong pronoun » Spread rumours » Talk behind their friend’s back » Stand by when LGBTI people are bullied » Treat LGBTI people any differently to anyone else.”

How are schools encouraged to get involved?

The Coalition has produced a suite of school resources which they say is to “equip staff and students with skills, practical ideas and greater confidence to lead positive change and be safe and inclusive for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families.”

Schools are encouraged to sign up and commit to becoming “safer and more inclusive”. In a guide to how schools can get started, the Coalition suggests teachers should “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,” reads the guide.

The guide also suggests schools should encourage student-led action including starting gender and sexual diversity clubs or celebrating the annual ‘International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia’ on May 17 or ‘Wear it Purple Day’.

A page one report in today’s The Australian says 490 primary and high schools have signed up to the Safe Schools coalition so far from across Australia.

Key learning outcomes of the All Of Us teaching materials  

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 4.01.51 pmThe All Of Us teaching material includes 8 lessons and has been written for Year 7 and 8 students by the Safe Schools Coalition and Minus8, a youth network for gay, bisexual, lesbian and transsexual teens. The Unit Guide sets the achievement standards for the course as:

“By the end of Year 8, students investigate strategies and resources to manage changes and transitions and their impact on identities. Students evaluate the impact on wellbeing of relationships and respecting diversity. They analyse factors that influence emotional responses. They investigate strategies and practices that enhance their own and others’ health and wellbeing… 

“…Students apply personal and social skills to establish and maintain respectful relationships and promote fair play and inclusivity. They demonstrate skills to make informed decisions, and propose and implement actions that promote their own and others’ health, safety and wellbeing.”

Course outcomes are listed as understanding LGBTI identities and the prejudice experienced by LGBTI young people, offering opportunities to create strategies to improve that experience and to evaluate their collective progress in “affecting social progress”.

Some of the lessons that may concern conservative groups

Imagine you are attracted to someone of the same sex…

Within Lesson Two, which focuses on same sex attracted experiences, students are divided into two groups. One group is invited to “put themselves in someone else’s’ shoes” and asked to imagine they were “really into” a person of the same sex. The other group does the same, but are asked to imagine they were “really into” a person of the opposite sex.

The students in Lesson Two are then asked ten ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions about their imaginings, including “Could you easily talk to your parents or close relatives about your sexuality?” and “When you go out with a group of friends to the movies, would you feel comfortable giving your partner a kiss or a hug?”

All the students stand, and then the teacher counts backwards from 10 and students sit down according to the number of times they were able to answer ‘Yes’ to the ten questions.

Don’t be afraid to show your teeth… 

A Lesson Three activity about bisexuality encourages students to form pairs and try and tell each other about their weekend without showing their teeth.

Unit notes suggest the teachers, “explain that in this world, anyone who has teeth may be discriminated against and considered inferior.”

One of the discussion questions for Lesson Three is: “How did it feel to have to hide part of yourself?”

“Before moving on,” reads the teachers unit guide, “is it important to tell students that it is perfectly OK to have teeth, and show them, just as it is OK to be same sex attracted, or identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.” 

Question the binary constructs of gender…

In Lesson Four, on transgender issues, the learning intentions are to “analyse societal expectations of gender and the stereotypical or limiting nature of these.”

“Up until this point, many students may believe that gender can only be either male or female, and that they have specifically related behaviours and characteristics. By completing this exercise, students will be able to explore the concept that gender exists outside this binary and that societal expectations of gender are shaped by the world in which they live,” reads the Unit Guide.

To see the full resources for yourself, visit safeschoolscoalition.org.au

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