Are some schools homophobic?

I am all too aware of the homophobia in schools that I experienced among my peers, but that's not what I want to talk about today. What I want to talk about is the system itself, which is run by grown adults - at least I thought it was?

I was saddened by reading the news of a gay coach in Christchurch who was sacked (according to reports) for no other reason than the fact that he was gay.

This man in his late twenties had been working with the girls' netball teams since February.

The Board of Trustees at Middleton Grange School, which is a Christian school, disclosed to the school principal that his homosexuality was a problem and therefore could not continue in the position - apparently this was due to the Christian belief that homosexuality is a sin? Hmph - not quite sure how that impacts the ability to do one's job any differently though!

What is it with the stigma that surrounds gay teachers though? This has long fascinated me and I have an entire sub-plot in a feature film script I've been developing that revolves around this very subject matter. I thought these silly reactions to someone in the education profession being gay were reserved for places like the US, but the story above has brought it all home; it's right in our own backyard.

There was also another story recently about a teenager in the US called Constance McMillen who wanted to attend her school prom with her same-sex partner.

The school told her it was not appropriate and when she protested their decision for her right to bring her partner, they cancelled the school prom altogether, causing many of her peers to turn against her.

What's the big deal? The more schools get up-tight and stuffy about these issues, the more this kind of attitude is perpetuated in the youth of tomorrow and it seems it all starts in school.

Luckily for this teen, The Ellen DeGeneres Show found out about it and the school eventually had to back down again.

In a separate incident, a student called Cole Goforth from Tennessee was sent home from school after wearing a T-shirt to school reading "I Love Lady Gay Gay" on it because it was supposedly "causing a disruption". Wow, I didn't know a T-Shirt had that kind of power? Last I checked, it was just a piece of clothing.

The pop singer heard about it and brought it to everyone's attention causing a media storm of bad publicity for the school and those involved in making the decisions.

The worrying thing is, these are all solid examples of how schools themselves are actively discriminating against students or staff who happen to be gay. If this is the ugly truth behind closed doors, then perhaps it's not such a mystery why some people grow up seeing it as being such a negative thing?

This isn't just limited to schools though as Universities around New Zealand are looking at making changes so that Student Union memberships become voluntary rather than automatic which will have a huge impact on funding for groups like the gay student group "UniQ" which could struggle to survive otherwise.

Since University is often the first time a young gay person escapes what might be an intolerant environment, groups such as this are a vital support resource for those coming to terms with their sexual identity. It would be a great shame to see them vanish unnecessarily since students already have the means to opt-out of Student Unions. Who is coming up with these silly ideas that seem to do more harm than good anyway?

Do you think there is much homophobia in the education systems here and overseas? Do you think it should be allowed to take a same-sex partner to school prom or ball or not?

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