Teachers at Cheltenham Girls High School, in northwest Sydney, have been asked to stop referring to their students as “girls”, ladies” and “women” and to instead use “gender-neutral” language like “students.” This is in line with Safe Schools, an initiative that aimed to “Create safer and more inclusive environments for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families” (Safe Schools Coalition, 2016).
Heteronormative language like mum and dad, boy and girl, man and woman is well engrained into children’s lives from a young age, but, gender neutrality is aiming to change that.
At a recent staff meeting, the teacher chairing the meeting displayed a copy of the NSW anti-discrimination act. Staff were informed by the teacher that if they did not support decisions of LGBTI students, they would be breaking the law, considered homophobic and not welcome by the school.
Some concerned parents have started a petition and gone to their local Liberal MP Damien Tudehope, saying their children feel marginalised and excluded if they don’t participate in LGBTI activities like Rainbow Day and Purple Day that have been put on by a group at Cheltenham Girls.
A rainbow flag at half- mast was put up at Cheltenham Girls to commemorate the infamous US terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando.
The Safe Schools anti bullying program has been surrounded with controversy. Those against the Safe Schools program have been sent a copy of the NSW Department of Education’s policy on homophobia.
There are more than 400 “Safe Schools” in NSW.