Proud Schools trial here to stay
Young LGBTI students have joined health groups, equal rights advocates as well as representatives from across the political divide to express their shock and dismay over an attack by conservative columnist Miranda Devine in News Limited-owned media outlets this week on a trial school anti-homophobia program.
The Proud Schools program is currently being trialled in 12 high schools in Sydney and the Hunter after it was initiated in 2010 by Labor’s former Education Minister Verity Firth.
It aims to reduce homophobia, transphobia and bullying with research by La Trobe University revealing two thirds of same-sex attracted young people have experiencing abuse with 80 per cent of that occurring in schools.
On Wednesday, various articles and editorials in News Limited owned newspaper like The Australian and the Daily Telegraph called for the disbandment of the program as it promoted “indoctrination and propaganda” and would make it a “thought crime to regard heterosexuality as the norm in human relationships”.
The articles also carried claims by Christian Democratic Party leader Fred Nile that Proud Schools was nothing more than “brainwashing” and that phrases like ‘that’s so gay’ were next to harmless.
The articles were quickly criticised by a wide spectrum of community and political leaders, with the likes of Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, Opposition Education spokesperson Carmel Tebbutt and Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann joining GLBT health and wellbeing organisation ACON and the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby to condemn the coverage and re-iterate their support for Proud Schools.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell today also joined those giving their support.
“I don’t believe that sexual orientation is any more a matter of choice than one’s gender,” O’Farrell said.
“Whether discrimination is on the basis of gender, sexuality, race or something else – it is unacceptable.”
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) said Piccoli should be commended for sticking to his principles in the face of ungrounded criticism.
“There is strong and compelling evidence that homophobia and other forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation exert a significant toll on the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people, with schools being the site in which young LGBTI people in particular are exposed to these forms of abuse,” GLRL co-conveners Justin Koonin and Lainie Arnold said.
“The GLRL commends the Education Minister Adrian Picolli for his stated commitment to the Proud Schools programme, and to the broader goal of ensuring all students in New South Wales can receive an education and live their lives free from discrimination.”
Jayde Ellis, from queer youth advocacy group Wear it Purple, told SX that suggestions carried in the News Limited articles that “there is no evidence that homophobic bullying is a big problem” were patently false with her organisation just one of a number which regularly deal with the fallout.
“The Proud Schools program arose from the terrifying fact that sexuality and gender diverse young people are six times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers,” she said.
“Isn’t that enough reason to protect our youth?”
Ellis said Proud Schools was not about eliminating heterosexuality as claimed by Devine but rather an opportunity to provide both staff and students with the resources and language to support same-sex attracted and gender questioning young people.
“To discuss sexuality and gender diversity is not telling any student that they should be attracted to the same sex but it is rather giving a language and understanding to the experiences and emotions that some are already feeling,” she said.
“To make these students and their experiences invisible tells them that they shouldn’t feel what they naturally feel.”
- Tags: Adrian Piccoli, Barry O'Farrell, Carmel Tebbutt, Cate Faehrmann, Daily Telegraph, Education, Fred Nile, Homophobia, Jayde Ellis, Justin Koonin, Lainie Arnold, Miranda Devine, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, NSW Government, Proud Schools, Schools, SX, The Australian, Transphobia, Verity Firth, Wear it Purple