catholicschoolhomophobicbullying

EREA ensures that schools provide inclusive learning environments

Education experts have lauded the Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA)-developed policy to fight homophobic and transphobic bullying. The EREA is the education branch of Christian Brothers. The latter administrates about 50 Australian Catholic schools. Experts say the Safe Schools program-generated messages are compatible with the imparted religious education.

As per the EREA policy, the involved schools have the responsibility to offer an inclusive and safe learning environment. These are applicable for all students, especially for gender diverse and gay young people. The policy points out that this posture is backed by the scriptures. Pope Francis also supported it during his Joy of Love speech made in March 2016.

The EREA has distributed its resources to all its 50 schools. It will train teachers so that they can create a more inclusive and safer environment for transgender and gay LGBTI families and students. The training material imparts information that children could have a sense of sexual orientation during their early primary school years. It states that teachers should support them to make them develop a “positive self-identity.”

Wayne Tinsey, the executive director of EREA, is of the opinion that the Catholic Church and its education sector have been silent for a long period of time. He asserted that EREA has no intention to get divisive. He said that his organization's principal intention is to be inclusive. The practices of discrimination, bullying, and harassment are in direct contradiction of that. These have no place in educational institutions.

The stand taken by EREA has the full support of other educational institutions. Victoria Rawlings of the University of Sydney, and an expert in sexualized, homophobic and transphobic bullying inside the school environment, said that the statement sent out by the organization was a correct step. The university's own findings were derived from the same data collected by Safe Schools Coalition. Conservatives have derided the latter as being extreme in nature. The right-wing lobby also has the opinion that it is not compatible with faith-centric schools.

Rawlings, in an interview with Australian media, said that Catholic schools are regarded as religious organizations. They are thus exempt from anti-discrimination legislation. This must be acknowledged as it means that a school group has been extra progressive to take up positions which concentrate on the well-being of the LGBTIQ students. 

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