What is the Safe Schools Program?

Friday, January 19, 2018

As child care professionals, many of the young people in your care will be moving on to school each year. As you’re preparing children for the transition to school, parents and families are likely to have questions about school so it’s important to have an understanding of school-related topics, including often-discussed ones like the Safe Schools Program.

In the lead up to the recent poll pertaining to marriage equality, there was much discussion around the Safe Schools Program — what is it, what does it do and so on. Let’s get clear on what exactly a Safe Schools Program is and what its intentions are.

Understanding the Safe Schools Program

The Safe Schools program is designed to help schools foster inclusive relationships amongst students and teachers.

At the moment, 61% of LGBTQI young people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex) report experiencing verbal homophobic abuse. This form of bullying leads to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety and it can also have a damaging effect on grades, school attendance and social exclusion.

In fact, LGBTQI people have the highest rates of attempted suicide and suicide in the entire country. Suicide attempts are six times higher for same-sex attracted people than their heterosexual peers. The Safe Schools Program is designed to eradicate the mistreatment of young people who are a part of this community so that they can feel supported and included.

What does the Safe Schools Program actually involve?

The Safe Schools Program is designed to make sure that everyone benefits, not just those who are a part of the LGBTQI community. The way this is executed in schools is largely in the hands of the school principal and community.

This may look like a review of school policies and practices, professional development for staff so they understand the LGBTQI community and their needs and/or creating a student body that encourages inclusion through diversity.

It also involves creating safe spaces for teachers and students to talk about the issues affecting LGBTQI students and their community, such as identity, ethnicity, drugs, alcohol and mental health.

The Safe Schools Coalition Australia (the group that is responsible for the Safe Schools Program) provides resources for teachers (both primary and secondary) so they can initiate these conversations respectfully. The one resource that is specifically designed to support gender diverse students is a secondary schools resource and is not introduced earlier.

The Australian Government has committed to ensuring the program will be embedded in all government high schools by the end of 2018.

Read our next two blogs in the series for more information on the safe school program!

The goals of the Safe Schools Program

Myth Buster: What People Are Saying About the Safe Schools Program vs. What Is True

 

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