A state government push to remove ethics classes and the teaching of gender fluidity in schools has prompted an ideological battle between Riverina-based educators.
The legislation was introduced to the Legislative Council in the first week of August by One Nation member Mark Latham.
The amendment to the Education Act 1990 seeks to make "parents and not schools primarily responsible for the development and formation of their children in relation to core values such as ethical and moral standards, social and political values and an understanding of personal identity, including in relation to gender and sexuality".
Heidi McElnea, regional manager of Primary Ethics, worries that the amendment may weaken classroom discussions.
"To strip ethics education entirely from the school curriculum would have a negative effect on children's education," Ms McElnea said.
"Ethics classes give [the] opportunity to investigate ideas with peers. Children are exposed to a lot of ideas they pick up at home, with friends, on social media. Ethics classes are a collaborative approach to working ideas out."
Particularly in light of the global pandemic, Ms McElnea said it would be impossible to separate questions of ethics from classroom learning, even if the specific classes were removed.
"COVID-19 itself has brought up ethical issues and questions about what our responsibilities are as a collective nation," she said.
Speaking to the Legislative Council on August 5, Mr Latham explained that the focus of the amendment would be to prohibit the teaching of gender fluidity in the classroom.
"Schools must deliver education, not indoctrination," Mr Latham said.
"Parenting can be tough and, in the era of social media, it can be challenging. The main thing parents ask of schools in the social development of children is to do no harm.
"Do not confuse our children by telling five and six-year-olds that gender is as fluid as water and that they can be a boy one day and a girl the next."
In other education news:
Chairperson of Wagga Interchurch Christian Education Team (WICCET), Stuart Gamble, believes the onus should be on parents to choose what their children will learn.
"It should absolutely be left up to the parents to decide what they want their children to learn, it's not for the school to determine that," he said.
He said options must be available for students to take Scriptural or ethics.
"There are already strict guidelines to what can and cannot be taught and as long as lessons are upholding those guidelines, it's up to the parents to decide," he said.