NEWS | Kaley Payne
Thursday 7 May 2015
Three Christian books have been suspended from the SRE (Special Religious Education) primary and high school curriculum in New South Wales overnight.
In a directive sent to NSW primary and secondary principals overnight, the Department of Education and Communities (‘the DEC’) said: “It has come to the attention of the Department that resources being delivered to support Special Religious Education (SRE) in schools may be in conflict with departmental policy and legislative requirements.”
The books in question are You: An Introduction by Michael Jensen, A Sneaking Suspicion by John Dickson and Teen Sex by the Book by Patricia Weerakoon. No further explanation as to how the books were in conflict with the department’s policy was given in the directive.
The DEC instructed all principals to contact SRE providers to ascertain if the books are being used, and to direct providers to cease using them immediately.
Michael Jensen and John Dickson’s books have been temporarily suspended on the Anglican Youthworks secondary SRE curriculum. Youthworks is one of the major providers of SRE materials around the country.
But Jon Thorpe from Youthworks says Teen Sex by the Book and an accompanying teaching manual were not developed for SRE classes in public schools. Rather, the Teen Sex unit was developed as a Christian Studies subject for independent schools.
“To the best of our knowledge, no one is currently using the unit in SRE,” he said.
In a statement to ministers and SRE providers, Mr Thorpe said the organisation was not approached or consulted by the DEC in relation to the directive.
“We are seeking clarification and the role of the DEC in authorising curriculum for SRE. No other curriculum resources have been impacted at this time.”
“We would like to remind churches and individuals that all SRE teachers must teach only the authorised curriculum resources,” writes Mr Thorpe in his communication to Youthworks SRE providers today.
Eternity is aware of several SRE teachers and administrators being approached by school principals to sign a document stating that they have not and will not use the three suspended books in their SRE classes.
Author of You: An Introduction, Michael Jensen, says he is perplexed by the decision. “I think this is an outrageous piece of book banning,” he told Eternity this afternoon.
Eternity has been in contact with the DEC this afternoon, and has asked for clarification as to whether the directive is a temporary or a permanent suspension. We will update this story when we receive a response.