The Controversy over the Safe Schools Program – Finding the Sensible Centre

33 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2016

Date Written: September 14, 2016


The Safe Schools program in Australia has attracted great controversy. On one end of the spectrum it is defended as an anti-bullying program. On the other end of the spectrum it is regarded as social engineering.

It is important to have programs in schools that offer support for same-sex attracted youth, or those experiencing confusion about their gender identity, particularly those who do not have support at home. However, this particular program has some serious flaws.

This paper seeks to draw attention to various problems in the Safe Schools materials which ought to be rectified if a program like this is to continue to be offered in schools. First, the materials present statistics on same-sex attraction and transgender prevalence that have no valid scientific basis. Secondly, they present sexual orientation as fixed when for school-aged adolescents it is very volatile, and many same-sex attractions are transitory. Thirdly, they present gender as fluid when for about 99.5% of the population, there is complete congruence between sexual characteristics and gender identity. Fourthly, they promote gender transitioning without the need for any medical and psychological guidance and even without parental knowledge or consent. Finally, they offer potentially misleading legal advice to teachers.

While a program of this kind may offer benefits for some young people, there is reason to be concerned that it may cause harm to other young people who experience same-sex attraction or gender confusion. There is certainly a place for an anti-bullying program that addresses the issues with which the Safe Schools program is concerned, but this program needs to be rescued from its progenitors.

Keywords: Children, Adolescents, Gay and Lesbian, Transgender, Gender Diverse, Intersex, Schools, Education, Gender Fluidity, Anti-Discrimination Law

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K32, K36

Suggested Citation

Parkinson, Patrick, The Controversy over the Safe Schools Program – Finding the Sensible Centre (September 14, 2016). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 16/83, Available at SSRN: or

Patrick Parkinson (Contact Author)

University of Queensland ( email )

Forgan Smith Building
The University of Queensland
St Lucia, Queensland 4072

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