Calls for Mandurah school to show more tolerance

mark mcgowanMark McGowan: Schools shouldn’t target children over who their parents are

Opposition leader Mark McGowan has called for a Mandurah school that reportedly threatened to expel a 7 year old girl for mentioning that she had a gay parent to show greater tolerance.

“We’re a diverse community, children have a diverse array of family relationships and we should be understanding and tolerant of all of them.” Mr McGowan told reporters earlier today.

“This little girl should not be targeted because of who her father is, and I’d say to the school – you shouldn’t do it again.”

Mr McGowan said most Western Australians believed in a diverse and tolerant society with a majority of people supporting marriage equality. Mr McGowan said incidents like this enhanced support for a change that recognised all families.   



Lynn MacLarenGreens MP describes the incident as a case of shocking prejudice and discrimination

The Green’s Lynn MacLaren said she found reports about the school’s actions in today’s news shocking. Ms MacLaren said many people would find the story to be upsetting.

“Christians can be gay and gay people can be Christian. The actions of this Principal, if this report is accurate, are bigoted and judgemental.

“It is galling to me that state and federal funds are being used to prop up this school, where such prejudice and discrimination is being displayed.

“These parents may choose to send their child to another school that would provide better support and education for their daughter, but I worry about all of the other children at the school.

“I call on the parents and teachers of this school to complain to the Principal about his treatment of both the parent and the student.” Ms MacLaren said.

Ms MacLaren said school was already a difficult time for children without them having to face additional discrimination. The Greens MP said this example highlighted why anti-bulling programs such as he Safe School Program were important.

“This is why programs such as the Safe School Program are so important. The program, recently launched in WA, builds a school’s capacity to support same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families.

“There is a bit of misinformation being circulated about the Safe Schools programme – but this incident illustrates it is sorely needed!

Ms McLaren said she’s give the schools Principal Andrew Newhouse an ‘F’ over the school’s actions.

“I’d fail this Principal as an educator and, as many others are saying in social media, as a Christian leader as well.”

Discrimination is likely to be legal under the Equal Opportunity act

WA’s Acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner Allan Macdonald has told OUTinPerth that the school’s actions may be legal but they would look into the case should a formal complaint be raised.

“The Equal Opportunity act does make discrimination against a student on the ground of that student’s sexual orientation unlawful in the area of education.” Mr Macdonald said.

Acting Commissioner Macdonald said that institutions could however defend discrimination based on religious beliefs.

“The institution can rely on a general defense under the Equal Opportunity Act…that provides where a religious education institution set up for that purpose, or provides education that is set up or run by a religious organisation or church, it can discriminate against a student, or someone seeking to enroll as a student, in order to avoid offending the tenants, beliefs and creed of that particular religion.” Mr Macdonald said.

The Acting Commissioner said the Equal Opportunity Commission would be duty bound to investigate the case if a formal complaint was logged. The Commissions conciliatory process would allow both parties to establish a way forward.

Despite a wide amount of media commentary on discrimination in this area Mr Macdonald said there were actually very few complaints that progressed as far as the State Administrative Tribunal.

“We would encourage all schools and institutions to be as open minded as they can be about the enrollment of students, and that may or may not be close adherence to the particular or part of the religion that the school is set up to espouse.”

The Acting Commissioner said while discrimination based on the sexuality of a parent was allowed under the act generally religious based schools were becoming more accepting over time.

“I think we can say in the last 30 years religious based schools have become much more open to students of any particular background. There many be many private schools and religious schools that are fine with gay and lesbian students enrolling.” Mr Macdonald said.

OIP Staff


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