Sydney’s Anglican school principals were tight-lipped this week about whether any students had sought to bring same-sex partners to school formals, but former students claim they did and weren’t barred as long as they were discreet.

In 2000 a lesbian couple attended their formal dance together at SCEGGs in Sydney’s eastern suburbs after initially being told they could only go separately. Since then several girls at the school have brought female partners and friends to events without asking permission or suffering any consequences.

They didn’t disallow same-sex partners, it’s just that they weren’t encouraged in a romantic setting, Victoria Firth-Smith, a classmate of the girls, told SSO.

It’s a Christian school with Christian values, it wasn’t like you can’t be a lesbian but they didn’t want that to be paraded. It was more a concern of not wanting them to be picked on.

Former Cranbook student Ronald Chan said some boys were very open about being a couple at school events, but he didn’t know if the authorities ever gave explicit permission.

I’m sure they would have been OK if I had taken a male partner to my formal too, he told SSO.

We had a lot of openly gay members in our high school. The school wouldn’t have a problem with it because [the students] would make a stink about it.

Each school could decide for itself, Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation head Laurie Scandrett said this week, backing a Queensland Anglican boys school’s decision to not allow a student to bring a male partner to his Year 12 dance. Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen also backed the ban.

School holidays began this week and principals were unavailable for comment.

Public school students must be treated equally regardless of homosexuality under NSW anti-discrimination laws, but private schools are exempt.

Anti-Discrimination Board president Stepan Kerkyasharian welcomed the opportunity for schools to discuss these issues with their communities, but did not want to see NSW schools follow the same example as the Anglican Church Grammar School.

It’s quite unacceptable to mandate to a young student what their life choices and lifestyle should be, especially in an educational setting, Kerkyasharian told SSO.

I would not want to see any private school in NSW doing something like this, because it’s against the law for a public school to do it, and it’s quite wrong for a school to discriminate against any student.

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