Queensland’s Department of Education has defended a prestigious Brisbane secondary school after a student-led Change.org petition took aim at “negative experiences” of its LGBTIQ students.
The petition created by a student at Toowong’s Queensland Academy For Science, Mathematics and Technology (QASMT) calls for an apology for previous “failures” in supporting them.
The school recently held a Pride event in support of Wear It Purple Day late last month.
The petitioning student called the event “a step in the right direction” however “not appropriate without an acknowledgement of past failures and a concrete commitment to improvement”.
The petitioner accused the school of “a poor response to student concerns in regards to bullying” and consistent refusal to “hold pride events or publicly support LGBT students”.
The student said in the past, the school had given students detention for wearing rainbow-themed accessories as they contravened its uniform policy.
They also claimed the school lacked a uniform policy for trans and gender diverse students.
The petition also accuses the Queensland school of “problematic” sex education that included abstinence-only messages.
“Many LGBT students across several cohorts feel impacted by these negative experiences,” they wrote.
“[We] want to ensure no further cohorts are impacted in the same way.”
The petitioners called for a formal apology to previous students “for the hurt caused by the lack of support and transparency, which does not shirk blame onto the students.”
The student calls for a “statement of intention” on how policies will change to explicitly protect students.
“Suggestions include formalising a non-binary uniform, updating senior jersey protocol for trans students, committing to future Pride events, mandating diversity training for admin staff, and protecting LGBT+ students from discrimination on school grounds,” the petition reads.
Education Department rejects petition’s claims
In response, a Queensland Education Department spokesperson told the Courier-Mail they rejected the claims in the petition.
“The school fully supports gender diversity. It is a very inclusive school where students, staff and alumni are welcome to express their diversity,” the spokesperson said.
“Policies are in place to ensure the safety of all students against discrimination, harassment and bullying.
“All staff enact the school’s inclusion policy and diversity strategy.”
A separate petition started by an anonymous student accused the school of mishandling her reports of sexual harassment by other students.
The female student also claimed other students had harassment complaints but were reluctant to come forward.
The Education Department spokesperson said the Toowong school does not tolerate inappropriate behaviour.
“Any situation that threatens the safety and wellbeing of students, staff or others in the school community is treated extremely seriously,” they said.
“And dealt with as a matter of priority in line with the school’s Student Code of Conduct.”
MP says no one should feel afraid to come to school
The Brisbane school is located within the electorate of Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman.
Berkman said he had met with some of the students, including the creator of the LGBTIQ petition.
“I’m hoping to arrange a meeting with them and the school to talk about their experience and what seem to be pretty reasonable demands,” he said.
“Absolutely no one should feel afraid to come to school.
“Students should be able to report sexual harassment and assault knowing they will be heard, believed and taken seriously.”
Berkman said Queensland should uniformly roll out sex and consent, and respectful relationships education.
It should be delivered by “trained, trauma-informed professionals, not religious instructors,” the MP said.
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.