Students take a stand against homophobia

April 26, 2008

The principal of the exclusive Anglican Church Grammar School in Brisbane is attempting to ban same-sex couples from attending the school formal in June. After several senior students had indicated their intention to take partners of the same sex, headmaster Jonathan Hensman came out publicly saying it would not be appropriate.

The school, which charges $265 to apply for admission and a further $12,212 per year in tuition fees for senior students, justified the decision with the following statement by Hensman: "The senior dinner dance is an opportunity for our young men to escort a young woman in a formal school environment."

Further, Hensman told the Courier Mail: "We don't intend to change our practice. As well as being a social occasion, it's an education forum and to that end the school decides what is appropriate behaviour and what is not."

This infers that Hensman and the school consider homosexuality "inappropriate behaviour", and that therefore they are morally obliged to ban students from attending the formal with same-sex couples.

Following the headmaster's public statements on April 12, an anonymous email with the subject heading "Stand up for your rights" was sent to all 215 senior students with an official complaint form attached. The email read: "Boys, your rights and your mates' rights may have been violated".

Public opinion has been overwhelmingly in support of the students, and an openly gay past student ("Churchie old boy") has also declared his support for the students fighting discrimination.

Dale Hinds, 20, recounted how he was ostracised from his peer group for being homosexual, stating: "The Churchie formal is not about being gay. It's about being treated fairly and equally and being respected."

Discrimination based on sexual preference is not only illegal under the department's inclusive education policy, which the school is obliged to follow, but it is morally reprehensible and outdated, as public opinion clearly shows.

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