Last month, Christchurch high school student Matthew Taylor gave us the first data from his project to investigate homophobia in New Zealand schools. That data showed that schools were unfamiliar with (and largely hostile to) their statutory duties under the Official Information Act. Which isn't really surprising when the "advice" they get from the School Trustee's Association starts like this:
From time to time boards bear the brunt of broad requests or fishing type expeditions. A recent case in point is a request in the past couple of weeks from the Leader of the Oppositions office to principals for information relating to national standards. We have had calls from boards and principals about the time and effort these sorts of things create...Matthew has now posted the full results of his queries. The summary: out of 431 schools surveyed, 169 simply did not respond, 26 refused the request, 49 did not have a school ball or formal, and 107 said they did not have any policy on the matter. Another 67 said they had no policy, but commented on related questions about after-ball parties (which highlighted some disturbing civil liberties issues around searches and mandatory breath-testing). 8 more deny having formal policy, but give comments. Matthew's summary:
‘Case by case basis’ is mentioned a lot in these replies. This doesn’t apply to opposite-sex dates that want to attend to the ball. Is it fair to subject same-sex dates to an additional process, just because of their sex?Clearly, these schools are not treating same-sex students equally.
Rejecting friends and mates of the same-sex as partners also came up. Are friends and mates of the opposite sex declined as dates? Is having to be gay, or having to prove that you’re gay, by signing something, or whatever, to take a same-sex date to a ball/formal acceptable?
Inviting sports teams to the formal/ball also came up as an excuse to treat same-sex couples differently. I wonder if the members of a mixed sports team attending the formal/ball would, as one schools says, “make a mockery out of the occasion”. I wonder how many times a same-sex sports team has attended the event at these schools. If it has happened, I wonder if they are being slightly over-dramatic regarding the negative effect it caused.
Christchurch Adventist School is the only school, out of those that actually replied, that flat-out says same-sex dates wouldn’t be permitted.
Campion College says they “generally [do not permit same-sex dates] due to a previous issue with vandalism”. I wonder if effectively banning same-sex dates is the best solution for this situation. I wonder how vandalism of a significant nature can occur during a supervised event.
Only one school - Christchurch Adventist School, a "special character" school - said they had an explicit "no gays" policy. I think the Ministry of Education needs to educate them about their obligations under the Human Rights Act.
Finally, St Patrick's College Wellington, the school that started it all by refusing to allow a student to bring a same-sex date, denies they have any policy on the matter or that they have ever banned anyone. I guess honesty, like tolerance, just isn't one of the "Catholic values" they teach there.