This week on Voice for Values, another parent pulls their child out of school due to the so-called ’Safe Schools’ program. Victorian father of two, Steve Burgen, felt drastic action needed to be taken as the contested gender theory had even found its way into maths class.
STEVE BURGEN ON VOICE FOR VALUES
TUESDAY 14TH JUNE 2016
Lyle Shelton: Well hello and welcome to Voice for Values radio. It’s great to have your company again. I’m Lyle Shelton from the Australian Christian Lobby. Well we’re continuing to discuss this issue of so-called ‘Safe Schools’. Regular listeners may know that last year, or earlier this year I should say, we spoke will Cella White, a brave mother who withdrew her children from Frankston High School in Victoria because this program was encouraging the idea that her children’s gender was fluid. Well another brave parent has also come forward. Steve Burgen is his name and he joins me on the line now. Steve, welcome to Voice for Values radio.
Steve Burgen: Hello Lyle. Thank you for having me.
Lyle Shelton: Steve it’s a great pleasure to have you and we do admire your courage. You were in The Australian newspaper just a few weeks ago speaking out about your experience there. You have two daughters. One at Frankston High School and another one at a nearby secondary school, Mount Erin. Can you tell us about the experience your daughters have had with this program being run in those particular schools?
Steve Burgen: Yes, Lyle. The eldest daughter that was at Frankston High School found that just the ideology of the Safe Schools program was blended into a lot of her classes, particularly English, anything to do with health and even had one of her mathematics classes hijacked by an LGBTI video.
Lyle Shelton: So Steve tell us what is this ideology that your daughters came across? What do you mean by ideology?
Steve Burgen: Well there’s a number of notions but ideas that gender is fluid, that sexuality is sort of anybody’s choice, that all forms of sexual expression are equally valid. These are all things that are part of the program, that are underlying it and they find their way into the school curriculum.
Lyle Shelton: So your daughter, apart from being told their gender was fluid, just cause they’re a girl doesn’t necessarily mean they might be a girl, they were also told about same-sex sexual practices and activities. Is that what you’re saying by the validation of all different forms of sexuality?
Steve Burgen: That’s right, particularly in the English class which I guess these days becomes a ground for discussing and thrashing around issues, particular issues such as same-sex marriage or homosexuality or even abortion and euthanasia, these are sort of the types of topics that are being discussed and when it came to things like same-sex marriage and homosexuality, the teacher would go through, read them through these are all the reasons why you know this is all okay and then would say, well it’s really only the Christians who are against this.
Lyle Shelton: So the teacher would say that? The teacher would say it’s only the Christians who are against these other forms of sexual expression?
Steve Burgen: Absolutely. The teacher would lead the students in this sort of engagement with a debate and my daughter would be sitting there with students in the class sort of really getting upset about oh it’s only the Christians who disagree with this and she sits there in the class and students are saying, in the classroom, I hate Christians.
Lyle Shelton: Really? People are saying they hate Christians?
Steve Burgen: They hate Christians because it’s assumed then that Christians hate gays, you know, so Christians are the evil ones and you know my daughter sits there in the class and this takes place. This was in the first couple of weeks of her even being at that school that this debate took place.
Lyle Shelton: How old is your daughter, Steve? How old is she?
Steve Burgen: She’s fifteen years old now.
Lyle Shelton: Fifteen years old and this is at Frankston High School this year this occurred?
Steve Burgen: Well actually it happened in the middle of last year.
Lyle Shelton: Middle of last year. Wow. Before Safe Schools even got on anyone’s radar this was going on.
Steve Burgen: That’s right.
Lyle Shelton: Wow. So how did this make your fifteen year old daughter feel as she heard her fellow classmates saying that they hate Christians? How did that make her feel and what did the teacher do to help her?
Steve Burgen: Well she was visibly upset. I don’t think she said she was crying but she was clearly obviously visibly upset and the teacher approached her to ask what was wrong and she said that I am a Christian and I don’t agree with same-sex marriage at which point the teacher just brushed her aside and said, oh well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion.
Lyle Shelton: And was this said publicly in the class or was that a discussion between the teacher and your daughter privately?
Steve Burgen: So that discussion was in the classroom when the teacher approached her during class time.
Lyle Shelton: So the other students heard the teacher say this to your daughter and basically say that you know it’s tough luck if that’s her views and there wasn’t really room for her worldview.
Steve Burgen: Well I can only assume it was a quieter conversation between the two of them but there’s no indication that the other students couldn’t hear that.
Lyle Shelton: So as a result of this, Steve, you have withdrawn your fifteen year old from Frankston High School?
Steve Burgen: Yes that’s correct. We started to investigate what was going on, started to research a bit about Safe Schools. We asked our children to write down what they were experiencing and going through as a part of it and it all came to a head earlier this year when we had a reason to discuss with the principal about what was going on. Basically the end result of that conversation was we were labelled as extremists for holding to our Christian value and views and told that we would probably be better off finding another school.
Lyle Shelton: Labelled as extremists. So is this what the principal of Frankston High School said to you and your wife?
Steve Burgen: The principal’s exact words: I can see that your views are extreme.
Lyle Shelton: Wow. Did he offer any reason as to why holding to the view that marriage is between a man and a woman and expressing concern about children being taught that their gender is fluid, did he say why he thought that was extreme?
Steve Burgen: No, no he didn’t. The lead up to him making that comment was me trying to express what Christian morals and beliefs were and trying to get the principal to understand that there was a different sort of opinion, there was a conflict essentially between what Christians held to and the material that Safe Schools Coalition Australia produced and that the school was endorsing and using and at the mention of Safe Schools Coalition Australia, we were labelled as extreme. At that point, he hung up the phone.
Lyle Shelton: So this was a phone call. Had there been any warning to you as parents and to the remainder of the parent body that Safe Schools was being introduced into Frankston High and the nature of the content of the material of Safe Schools. Were the parents ever notified?
Steve Burgen: No there was never any consultation with parents or making the parents aware that this was going on. A perfect example of this was, just a matter of contrast, my daughter at Frankston High in her English class had a note sent home asking if she was able to watch a video about an autistic child. In the maths class, they just said, we’re not doing maths today. We’re watching an LGBTI video. No note. No permission. No consent.
Lyle Shelton: Just hang on to that thought Steve. We’re coming up to a break. I’m talking with Steve Burgen. He is a Victorian father whose two daughters have been exposed to the Safe Schools Coalition program at Frankston High School and Mount Erin High School in Victoria. I’ll be back talking with Steve right after this. Don’t go away.
Well welcome back to Voice for Values. I’m with Steve Burgen, a Victorian father whose two daughters have been exposed to the Safe Schools program without his or his wife’s permission. Steve you were telling us on the other side of the break that there was no warning. There was a particular incidence where your daughter was exposed to an LGBTI video in a maths class. What was the nature of the content of this LGBTI video that was shown during maths?
Steve Burgen: I didn’t delve too deeply into what the video was about but the jist of it was about eliminating homophobia, all different expressions of sexuality are all equally valid. It was all about normalising that sort of lifestyle and saying that this is fine. So that was the jist from what I got from my daughter.
Lyle Shelton: And how did that make your daughter feel being exposed to that sort of material?
Steve Burgen: Well perhaps it’s a little bit cheeky but she said she just tuned out and spent the time writing down some song lyrics in her book. She didn’t want to engage with it.
Lyle Shelton: Is there a problem with kids at Frankston High bullying other kids who might be gay?
Steve Burgen: I think it’s actually the other way around Lyle. There aren’t instances of people being bullied at Frankston High because they’re gay, but the opposite is true. If you are heterosexual, if you believe in heterosexuality, if you were what they would deem heteronormative and heterosexist, then your views are the ones that aren’t welcome and if you do express those views, then you’re the ones who will be marginalised or isolated or excluded or belittled and that was the experience of my daughter.
Lyle Shelton: This was one daughter at Frankston High. You said you had another daughter, presumably younger, at Mount Erin Secondary School. Were her experiences similar to your daughter at Frankston High?
Steve Burgen: So similarities, particularly between the two, are with things like the -18 posters being up all around the school.
Lyle Shelton: Okay, just explain -18 for listeners who might not be aware. What do you mean by -18?
Steve Burgen: Well the Safe Schools Coalition Australia has a whole range of resources and one of the resources which they draw upon and promote is -18 website. There’s a series of posters. There’s also the ‘All of Us’ material and this particular material was ruled as being age inappropriate and not supposed to be used by the federal government earlier this year, but these particular posters are up all over both schools which means it’s been promoted. They’re actually everywhere. They’re all down the halls, they’re on the notice boards, they’re in the coordinators offices. It’s very hard for somebody to go school on a particular day and not pass several of these posters.
Lyle Shelton: What do these posters say?
Steve Burgen: Particular one that comes to mind is that you know, some boys like boys, some girls like girls, some boys like both boys and girls. That sort of thing.
Lyle Shelton: So these are big colourful posters plastered around both of these high schools.
Steve Burgen: That’s right. Exactly right. They’re all over the place and it really is an attack and an affront to what we believe and as Christians we believe that God created us male and female, that sexual intercourse is something that is for marriage and should be kept for people once they are married. It should be between a man and a woman. It should be exclusive, a monogamous relationship. These are the values that we believe in so to see posters up at the school that say it’s okay for you to be having sex now even though you’re not married and it’s great that you want to have sex with girls to have sex with girls or boys to have sex with boys and if you want to mix all that up, that’s just okay, that’s all normal. It’s literally a direct affront to what we believe.
Lyle Shelton: I think it might be an affront even to people who don’t share a Christian faith or a Christian worldview. I think a lot of parents would be worried about the idea of homosexuality being promoted so aggressively at school, particularly when kids are going through adolescence. It’s a time where there’s often natural sort of confusion and questioning going on but to have that introduced into your thinking during that vulnerable period of life, I think a lot of parents would be concerned about that being promoted at school. I mean, these are conversations I think you know parents would want to have rather than have a particular view of sexuality imposed on their kids at school.
Steve Burgen: That’s exactly right. These are the types of conversations that we as parents want to have with our children, that it’s our values and our morals in regards to sexuality that should be passed on to our children, not the morals or values that the state decide they should hold.
Lyle Shelton: Do you think other parents share your concerns? We know Cella White withdrew her children from Frankston High as well. Are there other parents that are showing concern or are people just too afraid to speak out against this sort of thing? It’s the sort of no one wants to talk about this sort of stuff anyway but you know what’s been the reaction of the parent body?
Steve Burgen: There is another family we’re aware of that left at the end of last year, left from Frankston High because of the Safe Schools but they just went away quietly. I find that a lot of people hear what’s going on and then they evaluate it as in does this affect my world? Does this affect my children? Or my children are older now so they’re not going to be affected by it so I don’t have to worry about it. A lot of people seem not to be interested or seem not to want to put an emotional stake into dealing with this issue. It’s also as you said, I think it’s not the kind of thing we like to talk about. It doesn’t make sort of polite conversation trying to raise these things and I think the other thing that the Safe Schools case has going for it, why people just don’t do anything about it, is that it’s actually so unbelievable and the disbelief factor when you say things to people they just look at you like you are crazy. They think you’re making it up but you know the truth is stranger than fiction.
Lyle Shelton: That’s exactly right. Steve, our time is gone but I just want to thank you for the courage you have shown in speaking up and being willing to speak about this. You’re right; a lot of people just don’t believe this stuff. It’s just so outrageous and so out-there but it’s so important that we bring this to light and we appreciate you taking the time to help do that and let’s just trust that as more and more people become aware, that there’ll be push-back and that this can be taken out of our schools. Steve Burgen, thanks for joining us on Voice for Values today.
Steve Burgen: Thank you very much Lyle.