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Karalee Katsambanis: Don't teach my kids about LGBTI issues... that's my job

As an Australian parent-of-three, I believe that I should be allowed to choose the 'when', 'where' and 'how' I talk to my children about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) issues - NOT schools and NOT at 11 years old.

The Safe Schools Coalition Australia program to teach 11-year-olds about LGBTI issues has begun.

But many Australian parents, including LGBTI parents I have spoken to, are not happy about it. They now see their parental rights of talking to their children about LGBTI issues when they themselves deem it to be the right time now being eroded away.

There are more than 1000 schools in Western Australia, 18 have signed up so far to the $8 million federal taxpayer-funded program so far. I have chosen NOT to reveal them.

WA schools who have signed up include state primary and high schools as well as one leading elite private single-sex Perth school.

When political activism starts masquerading as education, it is more than the school bell that should be ringing.

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The program does not require parental approval or notification.

This in itself has set off a storm of controversy. Those pushing the program claim parental approval is not necessary because it is not sex education and is just about talking about relationships between people.

The Safe Schools Coalition Australia has partnered with the WA Aids Council to deliver the program to schools in our state.

The program is known as 'All Of Us' and is presented as an anti-bullying program to promote transgender awareness.

Critics claim it is a gay lifestyle promotion program and a form of social engineering to further promote the LGBTI cause. Supporters argue homophobia and transphobia are rife in schools and this program is needed now.

The Victorian State Labor government has mandated that it will be compulsory for all schools to join the Safe Schools Coalition program by 2019.

A Victorian mother-of-four recently withdrew her son after he took part in a lesson and came home thoroughly confused.

Unlike Victoria, the program is new to WA and at this stage remains optional for schools to sign up to.

However, some WA parents have already withdrawn children from traditional schools in WA and are home schooling instead, unhappy and concerned with what their children have experienced taking part in the lessons.

Bullying has no place in schools, but there are already rigorous anti-bullying programs in place that are delivering effective outcomes.

The Department of Education's Executive Director Statewide Services, Lindsay Hale, says that schools strive to provide safe learning environments for all students regardless of gender identity, race, religion or sexual orientation.

"Principals, in consultation with their school communities, are best placed to decide which programs will address the needs of their students, "said Mr Hale.

But by the same token, a classroom of sniggering 11-year olds is not the place to start the journey of discussing LGBTI issues.

While those students who identify as LGBTI should not be unfairly discriminated against or victimised, critics such as education expert Dr Kevin Donnelly suggest that "Safe Schools Coalition is more about advocacy than simply making schools safer places. Students are being subjected to a concerted and well-resourced campaign enforcing an LGBTI sexuality and gender agenda."

The Safe Schools Coalition program may indeed be well intentioned by LGBTI supporters but it could have life-long ramifications on a child not emotionally mature enough to deal with this content.

Gender identity issues in early adolescence do occur and this program may be useful for those children whose parents are too judgemental and not emotionally equipped to want to bring the topic up at home.

BUT, for the overwhelming majority of 11 year olds it will not apply and does not apply.

'All Of Us' claims to want to increase respect and inclusion of LGBTI and to achieve its goal will teach children that there is no such thing as 'normal' sexuality, and that there are many genders beyond 'male or female'. The program claims instead that gender is fluid or limitless.

The phrase 'boys and girls' is not to be used because, according to the Safe Schools Coalition, using 'boys and girls' assumes that everyone is, or should be, heterosexual. Instead, the guide tells children to ask people if they prefer to be known as 'he', 'she', 'ze' or 'they'.

'Ze'? 'Ze'? That is completely ridiculous. What the hell is a 'ze?' Even my gay friends expressed dismay and surprise!

Heterosexuality is NOT taught in schools.

The guide presents current LGBTI ideology as the only acceptable view of sexuality and gender, which at 11 years old simply leads to confusion. Even adults struggle at times with these concepts.

Schools are always striving to create more inclusive school communities and parents trust their child's school to do this each and every day.

Life is tough enough for principals and teachers, so they don't need yet another issue to deal with that they themselves may deem not necessary for their school.

One of the 'All of Us' lessons encourages students to evaluate their school environment and advocate for change such as changing the curriculum, gender-neutral toilets and establishing groups such as Queer-Straight Alliance, LGBTI representative library books and using promotional material across the school such as banners, posters and stickers.

That is all well and good.

But, in another lesson illustrating the importance of having a safe learning environment the program states that 'we respect other people's opinions even if they are different to our own.'

However, the 'All of Us' material, along with other Safe Schools Coalition materials is ironically intolerant of WA's cultural and religious diversity.

It fails to provide guidance as to how students are to respect those people who for cultural or religious reasons consider the LGBTI sexual activity unacceptable.

Has anyone thought of the negative impact on children and their families if these discussions or topics are introduced to children in a group environment where a child may not be ready to receive this information?

These topics should instead be addressed with children as and when a parent feels that they are ready to understand and process the information.

Sadly, if a parent does not ever feel comfortable discussing these issues with their child, then that is just one of those things. The fact is you will never get everyone on the same page when it comes to such delicate issues like these and that is just a part of life - always has been, always will be.

Some critics have even claimed that the whole program fits the definition of bigotry because it does not tolerate any view that differs from the LGBTI ideology of sexuality and gender.

The LGBTI lobby is an incredibly powerful minority, but do not for one moment think it is a homogenous one. There are many with the LGBTI community that are wary about the Safe Schools Coalition but are too nervous to voice their concerns for fear of reprisals.

Apparently, at WA state schools which choose to sign up, the lessons will be delivered by teachers.

In my view, this can also open up a can of worms. A gay teacher may deliver the information in a completely different way to someone who is deeply religious. And some teachers simply feel that they should not be delivering these lessons in the first place.

We all hear about how people want the family unit in our society strengthened and that parents know their children best - so let families decide how and when to do it.

As a columnist, sticking one's head above the parapet is par for the course.

However, what sticks in my mind this week is the complete fear expressed by many that I was so 'brave' to write a column on this because I would be attacked by the LGBTI lobbyists no matter what I wrote.

So, to make sure there is no confusion.

I want to see the current and future generations of Australians continue to embrace their fellow Australians and respect them for who they are. But as a parent in Australia, I will decide when it is the right time to talk to my children about LGBTI issues, NOT a school and NOT at age 11.

Karalee Katsambanis is a mother-of-three and a journalist for more than 20 years. Listen to her on 6PR's PerthTonight with Chris Ilsley between 9pm-10pm on Mondays.

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