A school principal has labelled a protest against a “homophobic” letter as “unwarranted”.
The Illawarra Grammar School (TIGS) principal Judi Nealy issued a statement that says she was concerned about a protest on Monday morning at the school’s entry gates.
Protest TIGS: Support Queer Teachers and Students is being held to put pressure on the principal to withdraw the school’s name from an open letter to the government.
The controversial letter calls on federal MPs to uphold legal exemptions that make it possible for them to dismiss gay teachers.
The letter was signed by heads of 34 NSW Anglican schools, including several prestigious Sydney schools, Shellharbour Anglican College and TIGS.
The principals’ letter follows the introduction of a bill to stop discrimination (in the form of an exemption to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984) against gay students. The government is still considering whether to end the exemptions for teachers.
The principals contend faith-based schools should have a right to employ staff who support their “values, ethos and mission”.
The statement said TIGS “has no history of discrimination, nor do we seek license in exemption laws to discriminate against students or staff on the basis of their sexuality in the future”.
“Given our history and clearly-stated intentions for the future we believe the ‘Protest TIGS’ event is unwarranted,” Ms Nealy said.
The principal said the school attempted to contact the organisers of the protest last week to hear their concerns and to affirm their commitment to inclusivity but the organisers did not respond to the request.
“While we uphold the right to protest, we are concerned that the protest is planned at the entry gates utilised by 3-12 year old children attending our preschool and junior school programs,” Ms Nealy said.
“The potential to cause these students distress is considerable.
“It is likely as well that the protest will cause unrest to our Year 12 International Baccalaureate Diploma students who continue their final exams on Monday.
“The school remains open to dialogue with the protest organisers and is disappointed they were not open to alternative times and locations put forward by TIGS.
“Our focus on Monday however will be on caring for our students and ensuring that they feel safe at their school.”
Protest organiser Liv Pierson said the open letter was about discriminatory powers not religious freedom.
She said the Facebook event had been inundated with support from former TIGS students from around the country who say the open letter does not represent them.
“It’s obvious that no matter what the principal says, the majority of the TIGS school community does not believe the school should be exempt from the Sex Discrimination Act,” Miss Pierson said.
“Students and their teachers should feel welcome and supported at their school and that’s what this rainbow rally is about.”
The head of the school said in a previous statement “many have assumed the letter was questioning the place of gay staff and students in Anglican schools”.
“While the letter was not about this at all, it has become the issue and needs a response,” she said.
“I would like to reassure all students and parents that comments about the tenure of staff or the enrolment of students being threatened because of their sexual orientation do not apply to The Illawarra Grammar School.”