opinion

"Elite private schools are pretending homosexuality doesn't exist."

The fact that the notes from the Scots College emergency meeting were meant to be confidential says it all.

The school was panicking.

“The Scots College has requested the Gospel, Society and Culture Committee to prepare a statement on a biblical response to the homosexual agenda, and wishes to be able to respond rightly in the event that a same-sex couple might seek to enrol a boy within the College.”

It was a cry for help.

This was a school whose Christian beliefs opposed same-sex relationships – and yet, this would be the same urban demographic who in coming years may be applying for their son to attend. What were they meant to do? Whose side were they meant to take? Private school IS a business, after all. But what about their alignment to Christian teachings?

Sydney’s most expensive private boys school realised it could soon be on the wrong side of history.

As with Scots College Sydney, many private schools in Australia intersect education with religion.

Founded in 1893 under the Presbyterian Church, a brief glance at the Scots College website showcases a deeply religious institution.

“At The Scots College we believe that young men discover true wisdom through reverence for God and faith in Jesus Christ. The ultimate aim of our education is to help students acquire a knowledge of the truth — of God, society and the world — so that they are better prepared to serve in their families and the wider world, to the glory of God and for the welfare of others.”

This is a religious school: therefore, their stance on homosexuality is dictated by religious doctrine – which, as an institution, believes that it is a sin. This is the same for all Australian, private, religious schools.

For example: did you know that, at present under Australia’s sex discrimination laws, it is perfectly legal in Australia for a religious school to decline an enrollment from a same-sex couple?

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Or that it’s also legal for them to reject a student who identifies as LGBTI?

What about the fact that a religious school can even reject a teacher “…on the grounds of sex, transgender status, marital or domestic status, disability and homosexuality”?

It’s little wonder Scots College (and the legions of other exclusive religious schools of Australia) are getting nervous – their rules no longer align with the progressive, LGBTI-friendly society we are working to create.

Before long, they will need to decide whether that shiny pink dollar is as worthy as everyone else’s.

“I was married to a woman, have two kids, and am gay.” [Post continues after video]

Over the last year, the spotlight has been shone on the LGBTI community’s relationship with the Australian schooling system. The average Aussie begun to truly understand how deep the homophobic rivers run in our schools and government.

We are taking giant leaps backwards: the Safe Schools Program, which has been around since 2006, is on the chopping block. It’s imminent slashing has infuriated parents, teachers, and students who work overtime to prove how precious the program really is. It is without exaggeration to say that it saves lives.

And still, the conservative Christian groups and certain Coalition MP’s continued their campaign against the Rainbow Communist Superpower of The Safe Schools Program. In the end the Federal Minister for Education Simon Birmingham ordered a review and amendments.

As it stands, the future of the Safe Schools Program in our schools is still uncertain.

The incidence of same-sex parents will only begin to grow in years to come. Are your schools ready?
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So here we are.

2016, a time in which the fight for equal rights and complete acceptance of LGBTI community is a worldwide priority, and some Australian schools battle to pretend it doesn't exist.

As desperately as our antipodean backwater schools struggle to breed out diversity, they know deep down that change is coming. Globalisation and social media networks are rapidly growing the support and exchange of information between LGBTI teens across the world.

Younger students don't feel as frightened as they once did to declare their sexuality. Transgender children finally have a name to give their feelings. Same-sex couples are attending school formals together.

Studies show that 4.6% of Australian high-school aged kids identify as LGBTI, a number that increases to 6.5% as they reach their 20's.

Worldwide, the numbers are more telling.

A new study by J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group found that only half (48 %) of high-school aged kids identify as "exclusively heterosexual". As with the Australian survey, these numbers increase significantly (to 65%) as they hit their 20's.

The world is not getting gayer, it's just becoming more supportive of LGBTI rights - and our kids are listening.

How would you react if your teen identified as LGBTI? Would you trust your school to support their journey?

Tracey, 31, lives in Melbourne. She attended an exclusive girls private school, and has her two children enrolled in similar colleges. Now married, Tracey spent much of her teens and early 20's in same-sex relationships, and is sensitive to the struggle LGBTI teens face.

Despite the roaring homophobia she personally encountered, she's optimistic about the increasingly open attitude future generations are demonstrating towards same-sex couples and established gender roles.

She was reminded of this when she went to a high-school production from two of Melbourne's exclusive schools recently.

"I was incredibly heartened to see one of the male leads of last year's Hairspray production playing the cross-dressing mother role." she says.

"He was in heels, makeup etc, identifies as straight, is also the middle school Football Captain, and I noticed as he came from backstage, all his mates had nothing but praise for his performance, "great singing mate! Really excellent!" No mocking or jokes, which really seems reflective of the current generation."

Goodness. So progressive. I wonder what their teachers would say?

Prue, 42, also lives in Melbourne, but isn't so optimistic.

She's in a same-sex relationship, and she and her wife have been constantly ignored and dismissed by her teenage son's private school. With tuition fees nudging $30,000 a year, Prue is disgusted at the blatant nature they've been made to feel their money is somehow not as good as someone else's.

I remind her that in coming decades, same-sex parents will be prolific, and their 'pink dollar' with need to be valued just as much as the straight audience.

"I find it offensive that corporations/organisations, or individuals for that matter, would need to be reminded of of our possible spending power to treat us with humanity," she replies.

"I am offended that we can not simply be seen as human beings deserving of the same respect and care as everyone else."

"I don't want to be treated well because you think I lift spend my money with you. I just want to be treated well."

$30,000 a year to be looked down upon by your child's school? No thanks.

The term 'homosexual agenda' is vicious in its own right. It indicates pre-meditated and harmful behavior, a conspiracy, a plan.

The only 'agenda' of the LGBTI community that I'm aware of is of inclusion, acceptance, and love.

The term 'homosexual agenda' was actually coined by the US-based Christian right, and is widely considered "...an openly disparaging way to describe the advocacy of cultural acceptance and normalization of non-heterosexual orientations and relationships."

It seems remarkable that a modern institution of education would use this term. Moreover, how they could possibly be so open in their distrust of a whole community of people, based solely on their choice of partner? School is meant to churn out intelligence...not medieval garbage.

Prue hits the nail on the head.

"The only "agenda" us homosexuals have is to have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, food in our bellies, and to be treated equally. And if we have children? They are included in all those things, plus decent education."

At her $28,000/year high school, Tracey recalls an incident that left her in no doubt about her school's position on homosexuality. As a teen, she was reprimanded severely by a teacher for simply mentioning a fictional lesbian relationship.

"I wrote a creative writing piece. We were asked to reinterpret Romeo and Juliet for modern day, and my characters were both female." she recalls.

"My English teacher called me into her office and explained "as a Christian" how she couldn't allow me to write such a piece, would not accept nor grade it, but I was welcome to write whatever I wanted in my own free time."

She notes that it was only because she and her girlfriend at the time were 'extremely popular' and confident, that their relationship was overlooked by peers and teachers alike.

Can you imagine what would happen if a young teen, perhaps without the same confidence, was told their attraction to the same sex was disgusting? Wrong? Against God?

Now imagine that there is absolutely no support framework for this child to turn to, since the Safe Schools Program is close to being scrapped.

Where do they go? Who do they talk to? Why do they become to survive?

It's a terrifying situation.

There is a gaping divide in the Australian education system.

Private schools are where you go to 'get a good education'. Public schools are the second choice. Right?

I couldn't disagree more. As our country's private schools continue their tone-deaf disconnect with modern society, I lose sight of their value.

If anything, I would say I fear their 'religious agenda' over the 'homosexual agenda' any day.

Everything I value as knowledge as an adult was learnt well outside the gates of my religious, private, all-girls school. I learnt compassion and kindness sharing my last few bucks with my flatmates on dinner. I learnt intelligence and professionalism in my minimum wage reception job at 18. I learnt memory recall and accuracy serving coffees during university.

Do you know what I learnt from school? Not to stick my head out too far, or it will be chopped off. That being different is risky. What it was to be 'a good girl'.The definition of Pi. That adults are always right. That sinning is always wrong. And that being anything apart from straight was very wrong.

And do you know what? That's not an education. That's a lie.

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