NSW Legislative Council committee report backs parental rights in draft Latham gender legislation.
Parents will have a legal right to withdraw their children from classes inconsistent with their core beliefs and values under recommendations made by a NSW upper house parliamentary committee.
In a report published on 6 September, the cross-party committee supported important recommendations for supporting the rights of parents in educating their children.
The report from the inquiry into the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 also recommended preventing schools from encouraging transgenderism among students without the knowledge of their parents or guardians.
Its nine recommendations include establishing in law the primacy of parents in relation to the education of their children in moral and ethical standards, political and social values and matters of personal wellbeing and identity (including gender and sexuality).
Conscientious objections by parents beyond ‘religious grounds’ should be broadened to cover the teaching of political or ideological material in a dogmatic way.
Schools should consult with parents at the beginning of each school year and provide information on what will be taught in classrooms, including publishing on school websites a list of course outlines, textbooks and learning materials.
In particular, the Bill seeks to prohibit the promotion of gender fluidity in schools while not affecting the rights of transgender students to support and wellbeing in schools.
It recommended that schools not regard or refer to a student as transgender without advice from the student’s medical experts, parents or guardians, and that policies be introduced to prevent high school students competing in sports “outside of their biological gender” in recognition of the physical strength advantages teenage boys develop over girls.
The report also said that transgender students must be treated with “care, compassion, dignity and inclusion, free from discrimination, harassment, vilification and violence”.
Transgender students should be permitted to use the school uniform of their choice and be offered a “third choice” for bathroom facilities and changing room use, it added.
Earlier this year Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, chair of the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education, said that by ensuring parents are kept informed about what their children will be taught regarding matters of morality, the Bill “shows respect for the role of parents as primary educators of their children”.
“It troubles me that there would be resistance in some quarters to a law that requires schools to be upfront and transparent with parents about what children are being taught in the classroom,” the archbishop said.
“Schools should partner with parents for the flourishing of children, not hide things from them.”
Other supporters of the Bill include Catholic Schools NSW, the Maronite Eparchy of Australia and Oceania, the Council of Catholic School Parents NSW/ACT, and the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta.
Chair of the committee and author of the bill Mark Latham said that the recommended reforms are in line with the publicly stated views of NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell but that her words “must be supported by action”.
“The NSW Education Act 1990 has several references to parents but over time, these have proven to be tokenistic.
“After three decades, it is timely to update this statute with a stronger, more comprehensive expression of parental rights.
“If the Minister is to turn her rhetoric into results, an improved legislative framework is necessary.”