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We Asked A Queer Teenager To Fact-Check This Anti-Safe Schools Flyer

"It is so outlandish."

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Oscar is part of Save Safe Schools WA, a community organisation that wants the LGBTI anti-bullying program Safe Schools Coalition to continue, and volunteers with the Labor party.

In recent weeks the Safe Schools program has made headlines in Western Australia, ahead of the state election on Saturday.

Perth suburbs have been deluged by the group All Kids Matter with material railing against the program. A flyer claimed Safe Schools Coalition was not an anti-bullying program and was "bad for kids". It also warned voters against supporting Labor and the Greens.

Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren said the flyers had created a "fair bit of anger" among her constituents.

"It’s very worrying that parents are being inundated with lies and misinformation about an initiative that could – and does – save lives," she said.

So we asked Oscar to fact-check some of the claims made in the flyer.

Flyer: Safe Schools is not an anti-bullying program, but "a radical gender ideology program".

Oscar: "The [idea] that this is some kind of overarching political manoeuvre, it's ridiculous. When Safe Schools does come into schools, it's not gender ideology. It's in the form of talks, posters and assistance to teachers. If that's gender ideology... I can't even begin to respond to that. It is so outlandish.

"There's a personal story about someone I know that the Safe Schools Coalition really assisted. He's around 11, and he was transitioning. The SSC came into the school, they talked to the students about what he was doing, what it meant, and how they could help him. The students all understood. It wasn't radical – they said, 'From now on, you can call him this'. And because the kids had it explained to them in a way that was logical, it made everything easier for him."

Flyer: The program encourages boys in girls' toilets, change rooms and sporting teams.

The Safe Schools Coalition recommends transgender children be allowed to use facilities that align with their gender identity – so transgender girls in the girls' bathroom, and vice versa.

Oscar: "That kind of language displays nothing but ignorance, and it's just mean. The insistence on referring to [transgender people] with pronouns and names that they actively say, 'Hey, this makes me uncomfortable, don't do it' – it just cements the need for the Safe Schools Coalition."

Flyer: "All kids matter" – more effective anti-bullying programs are not LGBTI-specific.

Oscar: "For as long as we've had education in Australia, it's been that LGBTI kids don't matter. This program doesn't provide funds to LGBTI students, it doesn't do anything like that. It doesn't put them on a pedestal above anyone else.

"I agree that all kids do matter – but that's why I support Safe Schools. Saying 'all kids matter' means need you need to protect LGBTI kids, trans kids, too."

Flyer: "Safe Schools normalises early sexual activity and trivialises STDs."

Oscar: "I don't think sexual activity is really explored that much in the Safe Schools program at all. But where it is, they are taking a harm reduction approach more than a 'don't do it' approach. They're being realistic. They're saying, if you do it, these are the concerns, and this is what you need to be aware of.

"Saying it encourages sexual activity is a basic and poor analysis of what the program is trying to achieve."

WA politicians from all sides have weighed in on the program in recent weeks. Federal funding runs out midway through this year.

Premier Colin Barnett will not allocate state funding to continue the program in WA if the Coalition wins on Saturday.

"I do not support the Safe Schools program in any way," he told the Australian Christian Lobby's leaders' debate.

"From my knowledge of it – I've never read the material, but I've heard fellow members of parliament describing it – it encourages experimentation, promiscuity, to very young children getting down into primary schools."

The Labor Party has pledged $1.4 million over four years to continue the program.

Labor leader Mark McGowan pointed to higher suicide rates among young people who identified as gay.

"It is a major problem," he said. "There are also problems with young people who identify as gay with being bullied at school."

Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren told BuzzFeed News the party had a policy of rolling out Safe Schools to all high schools as well as TAFEs. She said it's "very, very sad" to see the program used as a political weapon in the WA election.

"I find it baffling that those in a position of influence within the government and elsewhere would work against, and deny support to, some of the country’s most vulnerable young people."

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson told 6PR radio's Mornings program that Safe Schools is "absolutely bloody ridiculous".

Following Barnett's declaration at the ACL candidate forum that he does not support Safe Schools, an audience member yelled: "You just won the election, sir!"

"No I didn't," Barnett replied. "Not on that."

CORRECTION

Oscar volunteers with the Labor party. A previous version of this post incorrectly stated he volunteers with the Greens.


Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com.

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