22 February 2016
Schools that promote and instruct students on chest binding, penis tucking and gender dysphoria could be sued decades into the future by students who suffer harm from the advice, according to legal advice obtained by the Australian Christian Lobby.
Around 500 schools with 330,000 students are signed up to the so-called Safe Schools Coalition Australia which says children must have access to this extreme material.
Australian Christian Lobby spokesperson Wendy Francis said the $8 million federally-funded government program could create a legal minefield for the government, schools and teachers who may be vulnerable to litigation.
She welcomed the opposition to SSCA that was voiced today by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who joined coalition colleagues in expressing concerns commonly held by many federal and state parliamentarians.
“It is irresponsible for the Government to be funding this ideologically-driven program when government-run schools could be hit by potential litigation claims,” Ms Francis said.
“The program, through its Minus 18 affiliate and the cobranded resource “OMG I’m Trans’, teaches young girls seven ways to bind their chests and boys to tuck their penises, which by Safe Schools’ own admission is dangerous and can cause long term physical damage.
“Legal advice to ACL has warned that State Government’s face potential liability for endorsing and promoting material distributed by the Safe Schools Coalition Australia.
“As with liability of school authorities for cyber bulling we may well see litigation occur in the future.”
The legal brief obtained by ACL states: “The school authority owes a duty of care to its students. The duty is a non-delegable duty. That is, it is not sufficient for a school authority to say that it employed competent teachers. The authority has the legal duty to ensure that reasonable care is taken of the students.”
It goes on to state: “Further the liability of the school is not dependent on whether the relevant incident occurred in school hours or on school premises.”
Ms Francis said SSCA had a duty of care and must explain to schools that are taking on the program that it carried a litigation risk.
“There is enough to indicate that school authorities which run the SSCA program should be aware of, and take steps to protect themselves from, the risk of claims being made against them.
“Perhaps more importantly, they should consider whether their pupils are protected from possible harm.
“As with child sexual abuse claims, the school authority may only be notified of claims many years after the relevant events.”
Ms Francis said it was time for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to heed the advice of his colleagues and ensure the government is protected from a potential legal minefield, but more importantly that children are not damaged by following the advice contained in the program.
“We call on State Parliaments and the Federal Parliament to hold an urgent review into Safe Schools and to remove this harmful material immediately,” Ms Francis said.
“The Commonwealth Government should cancel its contracts funding Safe Schools because it is not safe.
“Who is liable if a child damages themselves or later has surgery they regret?
“A thorough investigation must be undertaken to see how this has slipped into our school system.”
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