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Predatory schools and student non-lives: a discourse analysis of the Safe Schools Coalition Australia controversy

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This article addresses the controversy surrounding the Safe Schools Coalition Australia. Certain politicians and media commentators have accused the initiative of harming the students it ostensibly aims to benefit. Those accusations have, in turn, been labelled ‘homophobic’ by supporters of the Coalition. This article suggests that the term homophobic does not adequately describe or explain the visceral hostility of anti-Safe Schools discourses. Drawing on discourse analysis, I demonstrate how Safe Schools has been represented by its critics as being a sexual predator, while students have been represented as innocent, asexual, and requiring protection by their parents. These parents are the ones who can and should regulate their child’s access to sexual knowledge – and who can and should oppose Safe Schools. I conclude by arguing that the Safe Schools controversy is useful in that it provides an opportunity to recognise gender and sexually diverse student lives as being ‘lives’; and to consider how programmes such as Safe Schools can help create safer educational environments for these and other disadvantaged students.
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Keywords: Australia; Gender; Safe Schools Coalition Australia; innocence; school curricula; sexuality; vulnerability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

Publication date: January 2, 2019

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