Sex education presentation “went over the line” says Education Department

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
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The head of the South Australian Education Department acknowledged staff at a regional school did not check the content of a sex education presentation before it was delivered to a group of Year nine girls, without a teacher present.

The hour-long session at Renmark High School, on 22 March was delivered by an external speaker engaged by Headspace Berri, with students saying they were exposed to the concepts of incest and bestiality.

Principal Mat Evans apologised sent a letter to parents, apologising that the school also did not notify parents about the presentation ahead of time. He has launched an interval review and says the school is “taking this matter very seriously” Affected students have also been offered counselling.

The speaker involved has been suspended from working in South Australian government schools while the Education Department investigates the claims.

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SA Education Department chief executive Martin Westwell described content shared in the presentation as “unacceptable” and having “no place in a classroom”.

“There is a line, and this person went over the line,” he said.

“Where this has been particularly objectionable is where they’ve started to use language and notions like bestiality that have no place in a classroom. It is absolutely unacceptable behaviour.”

Professor Westwell said finding from a review will likely be delivered in term two.

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He confirmed that nobody from the school reviewed the speaker’s content ahead of the presentation to students and agreed “there should have been a teacher in the room”.

“That’s department policy,” he said.

Review will determine potential disciplinary action

Professor Westwell said he would not detail potential disciplinary action until the review was complete.

“I want to make sure we speak to people involved and to the students involved to determine the facts,” he said.

“The review will focus on this incident, but I am going to be making enquiries particularly around other schools that might have engaged (with these providers) … to make sure this hasn’t happened in other schools.”

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Headspace is a national mental health organisation, operated by non-profit FocusOne Health, which receives federal government funding.

“The federally funded organisation does exceptional work to support the mental health and well-being of young Australians,” Federal Liberal MP Tony Pasin said in a statement.

“I hope that it does not affect the willingness of families to reach out to Headspace when they need.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live