The Australian, May 4, 2016.
A Victorian father has pulled his daughter out of a state school after the Andrews government’s decision to make the Safe Schools anti-bullying program a mandatory part of the curriculum.
Steve Burgen, whose daughter was until last week in Year 10 at Frankston High School in Melbourne’s southeast, said Safe Schools was incompatible with his conservative Christian beliefs.
He says his family is being strong-armed out of the state system by the ideologically charged program, which is based on aspects of socially radical queer theory. Mr Burgen said he was being forced to enrol his daughter in a private Catholic school, despite it being beyond his financial means.
He would also move his other children, aged 13 and 10, to Catholic schools. “We’ve got three children and, frankly, we can’t really afford to put three children into private school, but we don’t have much choice,” he said.
Victoria is the only state where the controversial Safe Schools Coalition program will be compulsory for state schools by 2018.
Mr Burgen said he voiced concerns about the program to Frankston High principal John Albiston, who is committed to the resource, although the school does not teach the program in classes.
Mr Burgen said his 15-year-old daughter had felt excluded, disre-spected and inferior because she was opposed to gay marriage and gender theory. He said Safe Schools was an obvious influence on the culture of Frankston, and this cosmopolitan culture was permeating public schools as they were being forced to adopt the program.
“We are a Christian family; we have our world view, which doesn’t agree with a lot of this stuff. There were instances where she was marginalised because of her views and ostracised because of them in classroom discussions.
“If she raises her voice in concern about it she is brushed off by the teachers. She sits in classrooms when these things are discussed and the other students say: ‘It’s only the Christians that are against this. I hate Christians.’ And she is sitting there saying ‘I’m a Christian’.’’
Mr Albiston said Frankston High had signed up to Safe Schools so that all students felt safe. However, it was not a part of the school curriculum or taught in units courses.
“There is a range of ways a school can work with the coalition,” he said. “It is about being inclusive in our day-to-day practices and making our school a welcoming place for all students, whatever their gender or sexuality — just as it is a welcoming place for people of different religions and cultures.”