Liberals to scrap Safe Schools program

SOUTH Australia's version of Safe Schools would be scrapped and then replaced with a broader, "evidence based" anti-bullying program, with a particular focus on cyber-bullying, under a Liberal government.

A Marshall Government would also deliver laws to make it easier to prosecute serial bullies, after a legislative push by the Australian Conservatives, prompted by the tragic death of a southern suburbs teenager, lapsed in Parliament late last year.

While the current Safe Schools program is for secondary schools and focuses on addressing homophobia, its broader replacement would also cover primary years.

"We need an evidence-based, comprehensive approach to tackle bullying that covers a broad range of things that children and teenagers are bullied about, as opposed to the narrow approach of the Government's Safe Schools program," Opposition education spokesman John Gardner said.

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall.
Opposition Leader Steven Marshall.

"This will be a priority in our first year. Materials will be age-appropriate, including some for primary school year levels."

Opposition education spokesman John Gardner.
Opposition education spokesman John Gardner.

The original Safe Schools program created a nationwide storm over its alleged promotion of radical gender theory and the sexual nature of some resources.

Some elements were removed after an independent review and it was eventually defunded by the Federal Government.

Since July 2017, a new Safe Schools Anti-Bullying Initiative has been funded by the State Government and delivered by SHINE SA.

According to the Education Department website it "provides staff with the skills and confidence to tackle homophobic, transphobic and biphobic bullying in schools". It lists more than 60 schools that have adopted the voluntary program.

The Liberal policy follows the approach of the NSW and Tasmanian governments, which have both abandoned Safe Schools in favour of broader-focused programs.

It comes in the wake of a national outcry over the suicide of Northern Territory bullying victim Dolly Everett, 14, and a UniSA study that found parents wanted more severe punishments for bullies.

The policy document says a Marshall government would ensure "all schools maintain strictly enforced anti-bullying policies which are readily available to all members of the school community and which address all types of bullying".

In October The Advertiser revealed a wideranging State Government education blueprint including an anti-bullying strategy that would put every public school teacher through new training to identify and respond to student bullying.

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