Safe schools do better, Family Planning NSW’s Anne Stewart said at the launch of Safe Schools Coalition NSW.
The Safe Schools Coalition’s program is based on the vision of the nationally endorsed National Safe Schools Framework which aims to build safe school communities where diversity is valued, the risk from all types of harm is minimised and all members of the community feel respected, included and supported. It is designed to make schools safer and more inclusive for same sex attracted intersex and gender diverse young people because homophobic and transphobic harassment can result in low self-esteem, absenteeism, poor academic achievement, poor mental health, drug and alcohol misuse and higher rates of suicide.
Membership to the coalition is now open and schools in NSW can register their interest. Membership is free but indicates a commitment to building a school that is free from homophobic and transphobic bullying and which is safe and inclusive for all students and staff.
Ms Stewart explained the suite of support provided to schools that sign up to the Coalition, including training for staff which is tailored to the school, printed resources, tools to address homophobia, staff and student audits, assistance and advice in reviewing school policy and linkages to local support networks and services.
Australian Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson reflected on research that homophobic and transphobic bullying negatively impacts on a young person’s self-worth and security.
He said research such as the Growing Up Queer report highlights that “while homophobic and transphobic harassment and bullying can be seen in all aspects of their lives, schools are the major site where homophobic and transphobic bullying prevails”.
Laura Blundell, a young person who recently finished high school, provided a personal account of the impact of homophobia in schools when she spoke of her own experience. This ultimately involved being “outed”, isolation and exclusion, bullying, disengagement from school, depression and eventually a move to a different educational setting.
The program is administered nationally by the Foundation for Young Australians. Family Planning NSW is the service provider in NSW with the assistance of AIDS Council of NSW and the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.
Resources for young people and school staff can be found here on the Safe Schools Coalition Australia website.