Student suspended for Free Tibet protest

August 30, 2008

Students from Melbourne's Collingwood College protested on August 21 in defence of a student who was threatened with suspension for wearing a "Free Tibet" T-shirt.

The Year 8 student, Michael, had been removed from class after a Chinese language teacher took offence at his T-shirt.

Two of Michael's classmates responded by putting signs around their necks that said "Free Tibet, Free Michael".

When another teacher attempted to remove the signs, more classmates, along with passing year 10 students, came to their aid, with around 30 eventually joining a spontaneous protest outside the school.

While the protest saved Michael from being suspended, one of the students who had sparked off the protest by wearing a sign, Ben White-Bratton, was suspended and told to "go home and read about Tibet". A number of other students were given detention.

White-Bratton told Green Left Weekly that the students felt that as Collingwood College is a public school, they should have the right to free speech. "It wasn't just about Tibet but also free speech", he said.

His mother, Jo White, told GLW the she was proud of her son for taking a stand and "totally disgusted about his suspension, particularly as it is a Steiner school and I thought they would be more open-minded".

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