Yes, same-sex dates can go to the ball

21:37, Jul 13 2014
Johann Go
CHANGING TIMES: It took nearly two years for former St Patrick's College Silverstream student to build up the courage to tel his friends and family he was gay.

The tide is changing for gay teenagers given a "conservative, Catholic all-boys' school" doesn't object to same-sex couples at school balls, says a former Wellington student.

Johann Go finished his schooling at St Patrick's College Silverstream last year but not before asking the school rector Gerard Tully to give the green light to same-sex partners attending the college's formal.

"There was no objection . . . that was a meaningful and remarkable step".

He said there was still "stigma" attached to gay teens but any school that supported them attending the ball was helping to change that. "Staff supporting the policy is one of the biggest factors in ensuring the safety of students."

Since he confided in his friends and family last year, Go said about 30 former students had contacted him saying they wish they had had the courage when they were at school. "Sadly they hadn't felt safe to do so," he said.

In her thesis at Otago University, doctorate student Lee Smith researched whether high schools allowed same-sex partners at formals and what the students' reaction was.

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All-boys' schools were more hostile environments than co-educational schools but many principals did not have specific policies on the matter.

"Even when schools allowed same-sex couples and the school celebrated diversity, there were still students that said they wouldn't feel comfortable bringing a partner because they thought they'd get harassed."

Secondary Schools Principals' Association president Tom Parsons said many schools did not have a specific policy and made decisions case by case.

The passing of the Marriage Equality Bill last year signified that society's thinking had shifted.

The Dominion Post