Monica Doumit: Keeping parents in the dark

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The NSW Parliament is considering a Bill about whether to enshrine parental rights in law, or allow schools to suppress information about what is going on in the classroom. PHOTO: Freepik

Draft law before the NSW Parliament needs your support

Should schools be allowed to hide from parents what and when they are teaching students about moral and ethical matters, social and political values, personal identity, gender and sexuality, or should they be required to be transparent and accountable to parents in these matters?

When schools do teach about these matters, should this be done in an non-ideological manner, or should the ideology of a particular teacher be able to influence the way contentious topics are taught?

Should parents have the right to opt their children out of classes that teach moral and ethical matters that conflict with their own beliefs, and the values which they are trying to instil in their children?

Should schools be permitted to teach students that gender is a social construct, and is fluid rather than fixed? These questions are currently before the New South Wales Parliament, with a bill being considered about whether to enshrine these parental rights in law, or whether schools should be allowed to suppress information about what is going on in the classroom.

A screenshot of the web page of the Sydney-based Star Observer newspaper displays an article urging readers to campaign against the draft law proposed by NSW MLC Mark Latham. IMAGE: Screenshot/starobserver.com.au

The Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020, proposed and tabled by Mark Latham, seeks to restore and protect the fundamental rights of parents when it comes to the education of their children.

These rights are not only recognised by the Church, which teaches that parents are the primary educators of their children, a right and duty the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls both “primordial and inalienable” (CCC 2221), but also by international human rights law.

Article 18.4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a signatory, says that the State should respect the freedom of parents “to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”
Given this, it seems reasonable to assume that a bill upholding these rights would receive widespread support. I mean, who can argue with the need for transparency and accountability for parents when it comes to the education of their kids?

“They have begun a campaign of scare-mongering, suggesting to their followers that the proposed bill will somehow result in everything from teachers being fired for offering support…”

Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), it is being strongly opposed by a number of ideological groups, including the powerful LGBT lobby. They have begun a campaign of scare-mongering, suggesting to their followers that the proposed bill will somehow result in everything from teachers being fired for offering support to a student struggling with identity issues to the teaching of racist theories and anti-vaccination.

The bill does nothing of the sort. All it does is put some restraint on ideologies that are far too rampant in some schools.

The same people objecting to the mild limitations that are being provided by the bill are the same ones who – without a hint of irony – jump up and down about Special Religious Education being taught in public schools, claiming that public education should be free from ideology. When it comes to religion, these activists are all for transparency and accountability about what kids are being taught. When it comes to gender ideology with absolutely no basis in science, they want parents’ rights to be squashed.

Why are they so scared of this bill?

Well, the NSW Department of Education has a policy about how schools should deal with sexuality education and other controversial issues. Under the Department’s Controversial Issues in Schools Procedures, schools must provide parents and carers with specific details of school activities or programs addressing controversial issues prior to them occurring and give the opportunity for parents to withdraw their child from a particular session.

NSW education policy already says parents must be able to withdraw their children from particular classes they do not want their child to attend.

The policy clearly states: “the parental right to withdraw their child must be respected.”
You might ask, if upholding the rights of parents with respect to the education of their children in controversial matters is already a matter of departmental policy, why is there so much opposition to this bill?

For too many years, activists have tried to circumvent this policy by proposing that their particular lessons are not “controversial issues” and so can be kept away from parental consent.

They give programs benevolent-sounding names like “Safe Schools” and suggest they are not about gender and sexuality, but about anti-bullying, even though the creators of such programs readily admit that they have nothing to do with bullying.

This bill, if passed, would stop activists like this and the teachers they manage to influence being able to hide behind their own interpretation of “controversial issues” and instead be forced to come clean with parents about any educational matter that touches on issues of gender and sexuality.

No wonder they oppose it.

We need to make our voices heard too. The NSW Parliament is conducting a survey to obtain the views of the public and you can (and must) have your say.

Find the short survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VSPC2FX
Fill it out this week, and let the NSW Parliament know that you support the rights of parents to know what is really going on in the classroom.

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