Queer Melbourne youth group Minus18 has expressed anger at the banning of a Melbourne school girl from taking her girlfriend to the school formal.
Minus18 co-convenor Micah Scott told Southern Star Observer this morning, the incident was worrying.
“This is a confident young girl who has the support of her parents and has the support [to go to] the Equal Opportunity Commission and if someone has all that support, and can’t actually convince the school not to discriminate, then what hope does someone who isn’t as confident as her.”
“So while this is such a shocking story, I just can’t help but think about all those other kids who don’t have the confidence and how this example will affect them.”
The Age today reported 16-year-old Hannah Williams was forbidden by Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar to take her (then) 15-year-old girlfriend to the formal because she was asked by the school to bring a male.
The school argued the formal was about creating a co-educational environment for the female students.
Williams’ father lodged a complaint with the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission, alleging discrimination against his daughter because of her sexual orientation.
The complaint went to mediation, however no resolution was found.
Williams has since changed schools to Swinburne Senior Secondary College, where she will now attend with her girlfriend.
Scott said the issue is a common one for same-sex attracted young people.
He said most commonly a student will quietly come out to a teacher and the teacher will try to encourage the student to keep their sexuality under wraps.
“A lot of teachers are aware that officially they can’t discriminate that blatantly, but we hear it all the time for a young person to be discouraged quite actively by the school.”
Scott said the incident highlights the need for more schools to join the Government-backed state anti-homophobia initiative, the Safe Schools Coalition.
“I’ve heard a couple of people say, why do we need an organisation that focuses on creating safe spaces in schools when schools are already safe?”
“I think this really highlights that young people are still discriminated against and how much that support is really needed.”
Minus18 will be in contact with Williams and her girlfriend to invite them to the next Minus18 dance event in December as honorary guests.