The Organiser Of Safe Schools 2.0 “Unreservedly Apologises” For The Controversial Campaign

"I was warned that the approach I was taking was not one with which I should go down. These red flags should have been warning signs to me."

safe schools

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Yesterday a bunch of prominent Australians like Troye Sivan, Missy Higgins and Guy Pearce released a petition asking Malcolm Turnbull to reconsider the de-funding of the Safe Schools program. It didn’t go over well!

The well-meaning but vague statement proposed a move away from the “controversy” of the previous program. Many read this as implying that Safe Schools could be less “political” by removing almost all mention of trans youth and ‘gender theory’ from the program and solely focusing on the rights of gay kids. The campaign was almost immediately accused of pandering to far-right politicians and religious groups.

Today the “organiser and distributor of the letter” Ben Grubb, has written an apology on Medium about his Safe Schools petition and asked that it be “withdrawn” and removed from the petition platform.

Grubb directly addressed the criticism that the campaign’s aims were quite limp considering the violence faced by the LGBTQI community everyday. He wrote:

One of the biggest mistakes I made— and it was made by me alone — was in the drafting of the letter, with the word “acceptance” omitted from the framework proposed for teaching, and the letter referring to not seeking seeking “approval” of the way certain members of our society live.

Instead, the words “tolerance” and “mutual respect” were used. Acceptance was removed during the drafting after confidentially consulting a Canberra decision-maker on what they believed the government would potentially back to fund such a program.

Given the purpose of this letter was about achieving an outcome that would help LGBTI youth — which would require the federal government to fund it — I made the decision to omit the word highlighted above. This is a decision I deeply regret and I am truly sorry for. I am sorry to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community, many of whom have told me that by doing this represented the letter pandering to conservative views.

Grubb says that over the past 24 hours he has been contacted by friends “respectfully disagreeing or agreeing with the letter’s contents” and has reconsidered the message of his statement. Interestingly, he also acknowledges that he was “warned” by four of the 25 participants about the approach he had taken. “These red flags should have been warning signs to me,” he says.

On Twitter yesterday, some media personalities who signed the petition claimed that they had not seen the contents of the actual letter and that they were just advocating their support for the original Safe Schools program. (Ben Grubb tweeted that everyone who signed was sent the same wording as on the petition).

In a piece for Junkee yesterday, Patrick Lenton argued that the issue with petition was that it seemed to “capitulate to conservatives and religious groups on the idea that the original program had in some way ‘gone too far’, while also excluding trans youth from the narrative entirely.”

“It’s a particularly cowardly slap in the face to both portions of the LGBTIQ community and to the activists who have campaigned for Safe Schools in the first place,” Patrick wrote. “Make no mistake — the ‘politics and controversy’ which the new letter seeks to remove from the equation is literally the battle for trans inclusion.”

Ben Grubb says that he hopes the initiative will still start a “necessary conversation” about education and LGBTQI children in Australia, but apologises to Safe Schools leaders who felt this new campaign was a betrayal and a “weakening”.

“If I had my time again, I would have done things differently, chosen better words and consulted more widely with the LGBTI community on how the LGBTI youth of Australia can be helped before getting people to sign up,” he wrote.

You can read the full letter here.

Feature image: Nimal Skandhakumar/Flickr CC.