LGBTIQ+ Education Is Once Again Under Attack In NSW Schools
A bill has been introduced to NSW parliament that’s threatening to stamp out education about sexuality and gender diversity in schools.
It’s called the Education Legislation Amendment or Parental Rights Bill and it was introduced by NSW’s One Nation leader, Mark Latham.
Advocates are seriously worried about how this bill is going to affect LGBTIQ+ kids and their teachers.
So, what do we need to know about the bill?
It basically states that parents in NSW don’t have enough say on what their children are taught in schools.
Latham wants to cut down on any talk about sexuality in classrooms and completely ban any education about gender fluidity.
Alex Stefan: “Most schools will always put forward at the start of the year, a letter that goes home to parents that explains what children will be learning that year … I suppose I don’t really understand why they’ve created the bill because he’s [Latham’s] acknowledged that parents already have the ability to remove students from classes.”
That’s Alex Stefan, she’s a teacher and board member of the LGBTIQ+ advocacy group Wear it Purple.
Stefan said the bill goes even further than just attacking LGBTIQ+ education, it could put an end to talking about all sorts of social justice issues in schools, like racism, refugees or even climate change.
It’s a pretty obvious threat to the mental wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ youth and trans youth in particular – kids who are already seriously vulnerable to exclusion, bullying and mental health issues.
Stefan said she’s obviously worried for those students, but she’s also really concerned for the teachers.
The bill threatens to revoke the accreditation of any teachers who decide to educate their students about gender fluidity.
AS: “Which then puts teachers in a really awkward situation where it’s, supporting young people or, lose your job. And that’s a really hard thing to say to a teacher because most teachers teach because they love young kids and they want to help them… so to tell them, ‘we can’t do that anymore’ or ‘we have to pick and choose who we’re allowed to help’ I think is really, that’s harsh.”
The bill has only been proposed at the moment, it hasn’t actually passed. But Stefan thinks anything could happen at this point.
She said that a lot of the discussions about it are being done very quietly and there’s some serious danger that the bill could slip through the cracks.
But even if it doesn’t pass, Stefan said there are reasons to be really concerned that a debate like this is coming back into the public spotlight.
Back in 2017 there was a big public debate around the Safe Schools program that aimed to teach a more inclusive approach to the LGBTIQ+ community.
It became a massive media storm as conservative commentators and politicians attacked the program, claiming it was an explicit and inappropriate part of the curriculum.
Stefan said that public debates like Safe Schools and the same-sex marriage plebiscite can be incredibly damaging, and she’s seen the effects in her own students.
AS: “For them it feels like it’s one thing after another, like it’s a constant attack on them as human beings. It’s the very core of who they are and [they’re being] told that this is not ok, that there’s something wrong with them.”
But there’s still good reason to be optimistic here.
Stefan stressed that this generation of students in schools right now are the most socially and politically aware that she’s ever seen – and they’re exposed to a lot of really positive media about LGBTIQ+ issues.
She just wants to make sure that education about it stays in schools, so kids can keep learning accurate information in a safe environment.
Latham’s Parental Rights Bill is an obvious ideological strike against LGBTIQ+ students and their teachers, and it’s something that NSW can’t allow to happen in the dark.
But equally, if this does turn into another public debate, the media has to understand the kind of impact it will have on these students – because after so many years of these kind of attacks, looking out for their well-being should be an absolute priority.