Pressure is mounting on the Victorian Government to follow in the footsteps of other states and scrap the Safe School’s program, only one year before the program becomes mandatory.
Only 295 primary and secondary schools in the state are currently involved in the program, run by the Safe Schools Coalition, which aims to create a welcoming and safe environment for LGBTI students.
The Safe Schools program was set up to stop the bullying of gay and transgender students, but it divided parents and politicians and was criticised for its focus on gender fluidity and diverse sexuality.
The Victorian Government has had to repeatedly defend the anti-bullying initiative, which has been rejected in NSW and defunded in Tasmania.
While the Victorian Government has announced it will continue to support the program, Australian Christian Lobby Victorian director Dan Flynn said the issue had been divisive.
‘‘The Safe Schools program fell out of favour with Victorian parents when its creator, Roz Ward, broadcast that the program had nothing to do with anti-bullying, but everything to do with promoting gender and sexual diversity,’’ Mr Flynn said.
‘‘If the program remains, it will set the government on an electoral collision course with parents.’’
Shepparton schools McGuire College, Shepparton High School, Goulburn Valley Grammar and Wanganui Park Secondary College are all involved in the program, which equips school staff with knowledge, skills and practical ideas to create inclusive environments for LGBTI students and their families.
Wanganui Park Secondary College assistant principal Xavier Tanner said the school was supportive of the Safe Schools Coalition, but did not utilise all aspects of the program.
The school implemented the program six years ago to support a female transgender student who was transitioning and has worked to make the school more inclusive for those with diverse circumstances.
Mr Tanner said the school joined the program as an effort to support sexual diversity and had supported a further four transgender students in that time.
‘‘It’s something that’s made a huge difference to the students’ lives, particularly in their last few years at school,’’ Mr Tanner said.
‘‘We don’t follow all the programs promoted.
‘‘We tend to run our own programs, but we support students because we believe it’s an important aspect of their development.’’
The school has adopted support programs within its personal development and health educations, but Mr Tanner said the program, although important, was not vital to inclusiveness within the school.
He said the school would continue to uphold a supportive and inclusive environment with or without the program.