Salvation Army changes tack on Safe Schools Coalition

by The Educator05 Dec 2016
The Salvation Army has backed away from supporting the Safe Schools Coalition's anti-bullying program, which aims to create a safer and more inclusive education environment for students, staff and families that are same-sex attracted, intersex or gender-diverse.
 
A matter of weeks after the Salvation Army's Victorian branch declared its support for the initiative, a new statement announced the organisation has backtracked and called for the program to be reworked.

The statement read, "Whilst acknowledging such positive outcomes (to address bullying), the Salvation Army cannot unconditionally support the Safe Schools programs in Australia in their current form."

"We believe there needs to be consideration and refinement to the scope and form of implementation."

According to The Australian, the Salvation Army was inundated with complaints from its members in the wake of its initial support of the program, which provoked surprise among many.
 
In the most recent statement, the Salvation Army reiterated its concern for the wellbeing of LGBTI students, but qualified this by recommending that any government anti-bullying program should "consider all high-risk student groups".
 
"To this end the Salvation Army is open to working with state and federal governments and other agencies to develop a program that more comprehensively addresses the issues associated with bullying within schools," the statement added.
 
Salvation Army national media spokesperson Bruce Redman told The Australian that some of the organisation's reservations emerged following investigations that found significant state-by-state variations in how the program was delivered.

“In Queensland, for example, parents are very much involved, and they can choose to opt in or opt out,” said Redman.

“But to issue a blanket edict and say, ‘everyone’s involved... we’re just going to deliver the program’. That probably needs to be looked at.”

Vocal critic of the Safe Schools Coalition, Nick Wakeling, education spokesperson with Victoria's Liberal opposition, confirmed he met with the Salvation Army to discuss the program.

"I don’t think the issue here is so much about the ­Salvation Army changing its position," Wakeling said.

"What it really demonstrates is that this toxic program has little or no support in the wider community."