McLaren: Education Minister is Failing to Protect Kids

File Image: The Honorable Lynn McLaren MLC

The Minister for Education, Liz Constable, and the Education Department are failing in their duty of care to protect children from bullying by neglecting to implement policies to specifically tackle homophobia, according to a motion moved by Lynn MacLaren, Greens MLC for South Metro in State Parliament on March 29.

In addressing the Legislative Council, Ms MacLaren referred to comments by Equal Opportunity Commissioner Yvonne Henderson, who said research in this area of homophobic bullying was both compelling and disturbing, and called on the Minister to show a similar sense of the significance and scale of the problem. Ms MacLaren highlighted the better outcomes for students in states that had direct education policies on GLBTIQ issues and called on the Minister to implement similar policies in Western Australian schools.

Ms MacLaren told OUTinPerth,

‘the evidence shows that kids throughout their lives have lower achievement if they are bullied at school and particularly kids who are in the LGBTI community they drop out, they under achieve and in the worst cases [bullying] can lead to mental illness and suicide.’

‘the evidence it is clear that a specific policy against homophobic bullying is the only effective way to go forward and the Minister is failing to acknowledge the evidence.

‘The bottom line is that schools aren’t safe for kids. It’s not just kids who are identified as LGBTI or questioning but it’s all kids  – because kids who don’t fit into the standard framework of masculine and feminine are teased and without having a culture that teaches acceptance of all diversity then all kids potentially suffer and are subject to bullying.’

Dr Constable defended the Education Department’s lack of LGBTIQ specific policies, telling OUTinPerth that homophobic bullying was already covered under the Education Department’s general bullying policies. She also rejected the accusation that the Department is failing to protect students from homophobic bullying, saying that;

‘Bullying for any reason is abhorrent. Our policies and practices regarding bullying apply across the board, but The Department of Education is committed to the ongoing development of resources and materials for schools and has representatives on the Equal Opportunity Commission’s Gender and Sexuality Based Bullying and Discrimination in Schools steering committee and working party.’

‘These groups are working on the development of a coordinated and coherent strategy across public and private schools to systematically address gender and sexuality based bullying and discrimination experienced by students in schools.’

Zoe Carter

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