The Bully Pulpit


My son was late to the car the other day because a kid at the school bus stop had spat on a little girl. Disgusting behaviour. What I was super proud of was my son didn’t stand back and watch, he stepped in.

“Go away or I’ll spit on you too,” the kid said to him.

“You don’t scare me,” he said. “I’ve got five sisters.”

We need a program like the Safe Schools initiative because bullying is rife at schools and in our communities. You only have to check out the news any given week to hear a story of someone screaming obscenities at an ethnic woman on a bus. It disgusts me.

Bullying is bad. I think we can all agree on that.

We need to stamp it out as much as we can. Again, I’ve no doubt we’re all in agreeance.

Oddly, the difficulty can be some people don’t know when they’re being the bully. They see it as their right to free expression or they’re just having a lark. And I’ll come clean right here – I’m as guilty of this as anyone. But I’m always trying to pull myself up on it. And the same with my kids. Because none of us are perfect and if we didn’t try to improve our societies we’d still be bossing our slaves around and sending our kids down mineshafts instead of to schools.

The Safe Schools program aims to teach a few concepts to our children to help make our schools and our society a better and more tolerant place.




I, like so many others, think it all sounds great.

So why are there also so many dissenting voices and already calls for an overhaul?

Near as I can tell there are people who are afraid this course will go against the values (given the very nature of the course I struggle to read that without the word intolerances popping into my head) they’re teaching their kids at home and, incredibly and more specifically, encourage their kids to be gay. No, I’m not joking. That’s genuinely a concern for some folks.

I really don’t understand why some people are so scared of gay?

Now I do not intend to publish a post on my support of an anti-bullying initiative by getting verbally stuck into those who oppose it, so I’m going to try put my point across nicely here.

To me, being scared of a threat posed by gay people is as silly as being scared of red heads. What if the conversation went like this:

There’s a kid in my son’s class and we’re all pretty sure he’s a red head. When other kids call him Ranga he runs off to the toilets to cry. He’s shaved his head to fit in, but you can tell. 

It all sounds so stupid, doesn’t it? And horrible. When I’m arguing in favour of tolerance and marriage equality I hate having to trot out sentences like ‘gay people are normal’ because to me it’s as dumb as saying ‘red heads are normal’. I always feel ridiculous for stating the obvious.

Sadly, though, it’s not obvious for some.

So for me, I love the idea of a program at school which tackles, amongst other problems in our societies, the bullying associated with being gay. I’m thrilled to bits. My view is we need to encourage empathy in our children and this program is a good thing. Mentally putting yourself into someone else’s shoes is an excellent exercise to engage our kids in.

I think, in a world which is challenging what has been considered the norm for so long, some people have placed blinkers over their heads and lost track of the idea this program isn’t specifically about gay, it’s about anti-bullying and creating an environment our children feel safe in. Who doesn’t want that to be a thing at schools? If you’ve ever had your child come home crying because some little such and such said something horrid, then you want this. Only it seems some want it without the gay bit. Some people are worried it’s part of a gay agenda. Some people think it might introduce their kids to these unwanted ideas at a delicate age.

You know the sorts of unwanted ideas I don’t want entering into the heads of my kids?  I don’t want them thinking they’re different and then living some secret nightmare because society gives them the impression that if they are truly honest about who they are they’ll be ostracised. How do I know this is a real thing to be concerned about? Because it’s been happening for generations. I don’t want my kids thinking, as historically has so often tragically been the case, that they can’t live like this. I don’t want them to entertain suicidal thoughts because their sexuality upsets people who it doesn’t even affect.

Because my kids, like yours, mean the world to me.

From what I’ve read, detractors of Safe Schools seem to want a change in the language of the course so instead of teaching it’s okay to be gay they want to teach that even though someone is gay you should be tolerant of that. I understand the point, but I can’t agree with it.

Saying it’s okay if someone is gay is the only way which this can be taught because anything less than that would be truly awful for gay students. Think about it from their point of view. Put yourselves in their situation.

Or let’s look at it from a slightly different angle…

Racism is another topic the course embraces. Can you imagine an Aboriginal in the class and the teacher saying you don’t have to like Aboriginals but you do have to tolerate them?

I think you’ll agree that is both awful and unacceptable.

But why? Why is this different? I think it’s probably because society has already dealt with the idea of racial discrimination and we all know it won’t be tolerated. We know that your ethnic background shouldn’t afford you any less rights than anyone else. That’s fair. But the battle for the gay members of our community to be treated fairly and not demonised is, by comparison, relatively new.

We will get there. Society has proven that once we recognise discrimination and set about solving the problem, we can achieve great strides forward. People who don’t accept the equal footing of gay people are already on the decline. Their views will be talked about in the same way we discuss those who opposed abolishing slavery, who thought the colour of your skin denoted intelligence and who decried women being able to vote. And I’m sure at the time there were people tolerating blacks owning land and making a living. I’m sure at the time there were people tolerating blacks and asians being allowed into white schools. I’m sure there were husbands tolerating their wives accompanying them to the polling booths.

For now, some in our community will tolerate gay people being treated fairly and, soon I hope, being able to marry their partners, but in the not too distant future it’ll just be the way it is and we’ll all be the better for it.

And the Safe Schools program is a great step in the right direction, not just for our young up and coming gay members of our communities, but for all the other ways it will make our next generation more tolerant and considerate and able to consider different sides of an issue.

Bullying is something which needs to be addressed so that our kids feel safer at school, and our citizens feel safer in our communities.

Bullying occurs whenever someone highlights someone else’s differences and, instead of celebrating diversity, mocks them.

Bullying is awful. It hurts. It wounds. It stays with us long after the incident has passed. In worst case scenarios, it kills.

I suggest we let the experts do the job we can’t, won’t or simply don’t know how to.

Because the one thing I think everyone on all sides of this argument can agree on is we all love our kids and we all want them to feel safe and, ideally, not get spat on.

Tracey’s just pointed out to me the irony of having taken this photo for a post on safe schools when it’s where I’ve received two tickets over fifteen years for speeding while dropping kids off.

If you enjoyed this post please share, like or comment

“Raising a family on little more than laughs.”


  • Well, look at you all fancy with your awesome new blog! It’s fabulous – just as fabulous as the words of your post! All I can say is “Preach! Brother. Preach! From that Bully Pulpit. Unfortunately, those words still need to be spoken.

  • All. Of. This.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly: sometimes it is soooo hard to argue with the stupid, purely because I have to first accept how stupid some people can be. To me, I cannot wrap my head around how stupid it is to hurt someone for something that IS NOT hurting anyone else. It’s why I admire the administrators who conceive AND implement these initiatives – because they are thinking of ways to combat the stupid, when personally I would prefer to jettison it into the Sun.

  • Your new blog looks lovely. I think a blog about bullying and some peoples intolerance (stupidity) is a great one to start with. Although I am surprised I am commenting before the intolerant folk have started with the intolerant comments. Alas, some just can’t see the forest for the trees!

  • Well said. I cannot believe how much political support the idea of teaching kids not to bully has apparently attracted. It does make me wonder a lot about some of the politicians supporting it.

  • You go Bruce! Once again, very well put!
    And how proud of your young fella you must be!
    I can picture him saying “You don’t scare me. I’ve got five sisters”, and it totally makes me giggle.

  • Here Here! eligantly said.
    when I was a kid, my Scout group was the only place where we actively discussed tolorance, diversity, inclusiveness and the beauty of being able to see it from someone elses view point. i remember these perticular sections of the badge system and the camp run every two years specificly to teach this were one of my fav parts.
    it was great for all my friends to have a safe space to have this active and dinamic conversation with people of differing viewpoints, life expreiances, religions, cultures and sexuality.
    i hope that it dose het passed and that the teachers who get to run these classes realy engage with the students. a few of my teacher friends will be glad they can at last discuss the broader spectrums of safe sex with there students. they often get so mad that they cant franky answer the questions there asked because of the restrictions placed on them by the neuculear family pushing, woman and man only directed curriculum.

    *Giggles* at tracy pulling you up on the photo.

  • As a teacher, mother and sister whos brother is guy I agree whole heartedly. We do not need to tolerate we need to accept. I was the first person in my family my brother told he was guy (over 20yrs ago now). At the time he was worried sick about what we, his family, would say and do. He was worried that I would not accept him because I had started going to church. I told him that just becauce I go to church would never make me love him less. Yes I am a Christian and yes being guy is not what is in the bible but what is in there is acceptence of others choices. We all make some type of choice that others do not agree with but hey, that is what makes us human. The right to choose is a god given right not sonething given to us by our peers (not that being guy is a choice). I hate that at the time I felt privleged and proud that my brother trusted me enough to tell me because he should never have had to worry about what would happen. I once read a story (I can’t remember where from) that some parents had bemoaned they had failed as parents and disowned their son because he told them he was guy. The person who they spoke to told them they had not failed as parent because their son was guy but because they had disowned their son because he was guy. Being guy does not change the person we love for their loving kind personality they were 2 minutes before you found out they are guy. They are still that same person and will continue to be if we continue to treat them the some way we did prior to this new knowledge.
    On bullying in general a lot of children these days do not even realise what constitues bullying. I taught a lesson on bullying this week and the kids were shocked about what is bullying. A lot of the time when I have to talk to a student about bullying behaviour they will simply say I was only joking. I tell them it is never a joke when you are putting someone down or teasing them. We then discuss if they were the one it was happening to and if they would think it was just a joke and would someone walking past who does not know them would think it is a joke. It will usually make them see it from another angle and they will apologise (yes truely apologise by looking them in the eye).
    And another thing I teach child is never say ‘that’s ok’ to someone apologising. That is condoning the bad behaviour, it is never ok for someone to make you fell bad about yourself for any reason. I teach them to say ‘thank you for the apology’ instead.

  • Very well said! It’s so great to see people speaking up about this madness, especially the way you’ve done it by turning a debate that often gets lost in the noise (like Safe Schools) on it’s head with a reframe. It would be just as ridiculous to simply ‘tolerate’ someone having red hair of being of Aboriginal descent as it would someone who was gay. About time we realised that!

  • Any program that promotes respect acceptance tolerance and understanding has my support Too many of our young people are suffering due to bullying. Too many are dying.

  • This post says everything I want to say about Safe Schools and tolerance and those who oppose it, except with much more eloquence and far less swearing. Being white males I figure my boys won’t have to face racism or sexism, but if they happen to be gay I want with all my heart for them to have the same opportunities for love, happiness and success as those who aren’t. What I don’t want are arseholes who don’t even know them telling them there’s something “wrong” with them and giving them a hard time about it.
    Really liked how you dismantled the argument for changing the language about ‘being gay is ok’… bigotry is bigotry however you try to re-word it.
    Also really like the new website look!

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.