Why a Melbourne school asked students to tear pages out of their textbook.

A prestigious Melbourne Catholic school has asked year nine students to tears pages out of their prescribed health textbook.

The Age reports that students at St Francis Xavier College in the south eastern suburb of Berwick were called into the hall where they were asked to tear pages out of their textbook.

Students were told they were not allowed to leave the room until the pages were in the bin.

The pages in question discussed sexuality and pre-marital sex.

One page asked students to discuss their views on sex before marriage, and what advice they would have for friends or peers considering losing their virginity.

It also asked students to consider their own attitudes towards sexuality and sexual health, asking questions such as what they think would be an appropriate age to start having sex,  will they have sexual intercourse themselves, and if so, will they use protection.

Students were not allowed to leave the hall until the pages had been ripped out and put in the bin. (Image via iStock)

According to Fairfax, the textbook also discussed the fluidity of sexual identity, stating "while categories help in discussing sexual identity, research suggests that sexuality occurs on a continuum and can be fluid for many people." It was accompanied by a grey-scale image of two young men hugging.


Several parents, students and members of the community expressed their discomfort with the school's action. One member of the school community told Fairfax, "It was a medieval weak response, rather than an intelligent response."

"They might be gay,  have friends who are gay or have unwed parents," they said. "I can't get over that an educational institute asked students to rip up an educational material."

The request for students to destroy the material is particularly contentious considering the current debate surrounding religious education and the Safe Schools Coalition.

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Principal of St Fracis Xavier Collage, Vincent Feeney, said the material covered in the pages would be more appropriately discussed in religious education classes, and that the questions the school found most concerning did not refer to sexual orientation, but focused on having sex for the first time.

"Young people do become sexually active in our society before marriage," he said.

"But we have an obligation to talk about relationships in terms of our values context, which is a Catholic context. We mediate this within an understanding about where young people are. If we had our time again we would do things differently."