Original Source: The Age
The Andrews Government will overhaul the Safe Schools program and cut ties with its controversial founder Roz Ward amid a public backlash that was set to intensify ahead of the Victorian election.
In a bid to protect the anti-bullying initiative, the education department will be in charge of delivering Safe Schools from next year, ensuring that the government is solely responsibility for rolling it out to every state secondary school by 2018.
The move is a significant shift for a program that was co-founded by Ms Ward almost seven years ago and has been delivered through her employer, La Trobe University, ever since.
But in recent months, Safe Schools has come under sustained attack by critics who claim it promotes “radical gender theory” or believe Ms Ward’s history as a hardline Marxist is too extreme.
“I think the campaign against Safe Schools has been quite disgraceful from people who should know better and do know better, but are using it as a political tool,” said Victorian Education Minister James Merlino, who wrote to La Trobe on Friday to inform the university its contract would be terminated six months early.
“But Safe Schools has always been about more than just one person; it’s about stopping the bullying and harassment of young people who are same-sex attracted and gender diverse. We know that it works – and we know that it saves lives.”
The Safe Schools Coalition began as a trial under the Brumby Government in 2010, after teachers asked for a specific set of resources to help them support students who were “coming out” as same-sex attracted or gender diverse.
Since then, about 60 per cent of schools in Victoria have signed up, but the government is keen to significantly scale up the program with minimal controversy over the next two years in order to fulfil its election commitment.
Under the new structure, teachers will continue to have access to the same lesson plans to support LGBTI students, but the department will have the scope to review and enhance the material if required in future. “This is about making it better and stronger,” Mr Merlino said.