In my report, Are Schools Really Safe Places in Australia? I analysed the Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA) in comparison with other models of support for same-sex-attracted (SSA), intersex and gender-diverse students in Singapore, the UK and US.
Safe Schools Coalition Australia is a national coalition of schools dedicated to creating safe and inclusive learning environments for SSA, intersex and gender-diverse students, school staff and families.
Through comparisons between various models and interviews with experts, educators and key stakeholders, this report provides details and evidence that demonstrate what strategies and ideas work best.
The report looked at:
- state and federal recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer students, teachers, and children of same-sex families in school settings
- strategies and policies of support and change
- the actual active implementation of programs in schools
- teacher training and professional development opportunities and strategies
- funding models
- incorporation of safe policies. An integral part of this report was interviews with teachers, education experts, same-sex families and families with children who identify as SSA, intersex or gender-diverse. This provided great insight into the effectiveness of the various strategies and programs in place.
In August and September 2016, I visited Singapore, England, Scotland and the US.
LGBTIQ people in Singapore lack many of the legal rights of non-LGBTQI residents. Same sex relationships are not recognised under the law. Consequently, there is not an awareness of any school-based policies or frameworks to support gender diverse, intersex and SSA students.
On the flipside, in England and Scotland and you will find a wealth of established programs and support systems. Stonewall is the largest LGBTQI rights organisation, not only in the UK but also in Europe. The organisation works with more than 12,000 schools across the UK providing in-school programs and training services for teachers to enable the creation of a network of supportive schools and stronger anti-bullying polices and strategies.
LGBT Youth Scotland is the largest youth and community-based organisation for LGBT people in Scotland. The charity’s mission is to “empower lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people and the wider community so that they are embraced as full members of the Scottish family at home, school and in every community”.
I found the LGBTQI gold at the end of the rainbow in the US, where a whole host of established and proactive programs supporting students from age four through to university. Organisations such as Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) aim to improve the education system for the LGBTQI students in schools and universities across the US.
Perhaps the most exciting was the Human Rights Campaign Foundation project called “Welcoming Schools”. The “Welcoming Schools” program is a comprehensive approach to improving the school climate and creating safer elementary school environments.
I would like to thank the Federation for this wonderful opportunity and I feel very privileged and fortunate to have been awarded the Eric Pearson Study Grant in 2016.
Michelle McCormack is the recipient of the 2016 Eric Pearson Study Grant Award