Parent’s rights focus of NSW education bill

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Parent’s rights to have their children educated in line with their beliefs and values are the focus of a proposed law for NSW. PHOTO: Shutterstock

Archbishop Fisher urges support for rights in education

A proposed law to affirm parents as the primary educators of their children will promote greater transparency in teaching and resist the undermining of families wishing to pass on values and faith, say its supporters including Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP.

A parliamentary inquiry into the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 is seeking submissions through an online survey or written submission.

The Bill aims to ensure parents of students in New South Wales schools are fully aware of what is being taught in their children’s classrooms. It would stop schools from providing instruction on ideologically-based and political material that is inconsistent with the wishes and values of parents, and give parents the right to withdraw students from classes they object to.

“the Bill shows respect for the role of parents as primary educators of their children” -Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP

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.

“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,” said Archbishop Fisher.


“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. Schools should partner with parents for the flourishing of children, not hide things from them.

Archbishop Fisher in a classroom at St Christopher’s Primary School in Panania. PHOTO: SCS/Kitty Beale

“I am asking all those who care about the role of parents in the education of their children, and who want to protect children from hidden agendas that can sometimes creep into the classroom, to voice their support for parents’ rights.”

The Bill’s author and chair of the inquiry committee Mark Latham MLC said it supports the stated aim of NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell that overtly political content has no place in classrooms.

“This Bill is about winding back the creep of gender fluidity ideologies into NSW schools and re-establishing the primacy of parents in shaping their children’s development and sense of identity,” said Mr Latham. 

Parents “must have a valid right to ensure that what’s taught in schools aligns with their family’s v
alues and priorities” he added. 

Mark Latham MLC

Council for Catholic School Parents (CCSP) NSW/ACT also support the bill. Executive director Peter Grace said it would publish its submission on its website by early March. 
CCSP chair Wayne Davie said that the complexity of the subject matter dealt with in the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 “warrants careful consideration”.

“In principle, CCSP supports any move, legislative or otherwise, that protects and promotes the place of parents as the first educators of their children,” Mr Davie said in a statement.

“This is particularly relevant in matters of parental primacy, such as gender and sexuality. 
He said the Bill’s provision that schools consult parents on significant issues is “to a large extent, already observed in the NSW Catholic school sector

“Parents need to be confident that their role as the first educators of their children will not be undermined or usurped by syllabuses, schools or individual teachers,” he said.

Mr Grace said CCSP would monitor the roll out of NESA’s syllabus reform in response to the NSW Curriculum Review “lest there be any syllabus materials developed that are inappropriate or counter to Catholic teachings”. “It is vital that any syllabuses developed for use in NSW are age and stage appropriate across all schools,” he added. 

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Liberal MP Kevin Conolly said while he was not across the details of the Bill he fully supported its stated intent and principals. Its purpose is consistent with where the Liberal party would normally be on education,” he said.
 
When we passed the Education Act in 1990, one of its principals was that the education of a child is primarily the responsibility of the child’s parents. While that’s stated as a principal in the Act sadly it’s not always reflected down the line in the legislation and practice. 

“[This]…is in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that clearly makes it the right and responsibility of parents to determine the moral and religious and ethical education of their children” -Kevin Conolly

“Latham’s Bill gives us an important reminder that this is a premise of education in NSW, which is also in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that clearly makes it the right and responsibility of parents to determine the moral and religious and ethical education of their children.”

The online form has options for expressing support or opposition to the Bill. Other questions deal with the teaching of gender and sexuality in schools as well as whether parents should have a say about what is being taught in classrooms and be provided with an extensive outline of the curriculum at the start of the school year.

It also asks if parents should be allowed to remove their children from classes that do not agree with the family’s social and moral values.

Submissions to the inquiry into the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 are open until the end of Sunday 28 February. 

The online survey is at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VSPC2FX

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