A year 11 student putting up posters for a gay rights protest at his school has been called a faggot by a teacher and has had his posters ripped down.
The student, Jimmy Y from Glen Waverly Secondary College had been putting up posters all week for the upcoming Equal Love Rally , a gay protest for equal rights in Victoria on November 28. According to Jimmy the posters kept getting ripped down. The culprit was finally caught in the school library, and found to be a teacher. When confronted about posters, the teacher (whose real name is ironically Mr Right) turned around and shouted at the student, “Faggot Kid! You don’t know what real marriage is!”
The confrontation took place in front of other staff and students all of whom began to gather around in support of the student, with some stepping in to diffuse the situation.
“The other students and teachers that were around were clearly as upset and outraged as I was,” Jimmy told Same Same. “Many of them came up to me afterwards and told me so. At the time one staff member actually called out ‘that’s totally out of line!’”
Jimmy Y is a politically and socially aware student at the school who has helped raise awareness on a number of issues aside from just gay and lesbian ones. Along with a hand full of other students, he joined a rally in protest of the war in Israel and the bombing of Palestinians earlier on this year. He has also helped raise awareness and express concerns about the governments treatment of the Australia’s aboriginal community. The school also has groups that actively participate in charities like World Vision. However, it was the Equal Love rally posters that resulted in his first ever clash. He along with five other students protested Mr Right’s actions the very next day.
The National Union of Students (NSU) have been quick to weigh in on the situation, issuing an immediate press release denouncing the actions of the teacher. According to the NUS, the Victorian Department of Education states that 74% of homophobic abuse experienced by young people occurs in high school.
“Our schools should be encouraging acceptance and diversity, not discrimination,” said NUS queer officer Heidi Claus. “Far from displaying the sort of pastoral care that our community expects, this teacher [Mr Right] has actively perpetuated intolerance and hate.”
Same Same also spoke directly with the principal of Glen Waverly Secondary School, Mr Gerry Schiller about the incident. According to Mr Schiller the abusive individual was not actually a teacher at the school, but a former teacher who was present on a temporary and volunteer basis to supervise certain school activities, including assisting the schools chess club.
“Jimmy, is an exceptional student with a social awareness and consciousness way beyond his years. He’s not just out to make a point or make waves, but he really is very passionate about his causes… he really does care, and I think that does need to recognized and commended.” Mr Schiller said,“Mr Right is an older gentleman with values coloured by a very different time and perhaps religious beliefs too. Not that it makes his actions excusable in any way… it’s just a context. What happened clearly shouldn’t have happened. It’s unacceptable and inappropriate full stop, especially for any student at this school. And the school doesn’t support such treatment. In a diverse situation like a high school there will always be differences of opinion and such… between students, teachers, staff and even parents. Differences need to be respected.”
“In general I don’t think high school is really the best forum for that level of political activity… That being said, we do encourage our students to have a social conscience and to participate in causes. For example we have a World Vision group who work with that cause. I feel it is important for students to feel like they can express themselves if they feel the need to do so.” Schiller continued.
“When is the right age to start caring about what’s going on? Just because we are young or in school doesn’t mean we don’t care about what is happening in our world. It doesn’t mean we don’t have an opinion or that we can’t actively participate in our world. We are a lot more aware than most people think. All we want is a chance to share how we feel and contribute. We should be able to do that and taken seriously and respected,” Jimmy said in response.
Mr Right has since resigned from his volunteer role, saying that he was not going to return to the school. At the time we contacted Mr Schiller, he was still undecided on whether or not he would allow Mr right to return to the school, though that seemed highly unlikely.