Cheltenham Girls High: Teachers at exclusive girls school told to preach gender neutral
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TEACHERS at an all-girls school in northwest Sydney have been asked to stop referring to their students as “girls”, ladies” and “women”and to instead use “gender-neutral” language.
The request to teachers at Cheltenham Girls High School came in a staff meeting last term to discuss implementation of the controversial Safe Schools anti-bullying program for lesbian, gay and transgender (LGBTI) students.
Also at the meeting, a copy of the NSW anti-discrimination act was displayed, according to an insider, and staff were informed by the teacher chairing the meeting that if they did not support decisions of LGBTI students they would be breaking the law, would be considered homophobic and were not welcome by the school.
Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has asked his department to investigate the allegations.
Some concerned parents have started a petition and complained to teachers and to their local Liberal MP Damien Tudehope, saying their children feel marginalised and excluded if they don’t participate in LGBTI activities at the elite, ethnically diverse public high school.
Teachers have helped a group of students at the school form an LGBTI “Queer-straight alliance” club to promote LGBTI issues, such as Wear it Purple Day.
Other events included the temporary removal of an Aboriginal flag from a flagpole inside school grounds last month, which was replaced with a rainbow flag at half- mast for a week to commemorate a US terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando.
“(Some of) the parents are saying that at (LGBTI) events like Rainbow Day and Purple Day that if their daughter doesn’t comply with what they perceive as the school directions their daughter is ostracised,” Mr Tudehope said.
He said parents from another school in his electorate had also approached him with similar concerns.
One mother who met principal Susan Bridge to express her concerns about the Safe Schools program was dissatisfied with the meeting, which resulted in the principal sending her a copy of the NSW Department of Education’s policy on homophobia.
Ms Bridge did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.
Mr Piccoli said: “I have asked the department to investigate these complaints promptly, in accordance with departmental policy.
“All schools are required to conform with federal government guidelines. I am advised all schools are following these guidelines. I have asked the secretary to confirm this is the case at all schools, including Cheltenham Girls High School.”
Dr Kevin Donnelly, senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University and co-author of the Review of the Australian Curriculum, said the use of gender-neutral language such as “students” in place of “girls” and “boys” was part of the Safe Schools agenda to erase gender differences.
“They say it’s hetero-normative to talk about men and women, boys and girls, because it’s reinforcing a binary stereotype,” he said. “I disagree with all of that, but I can understand why the school would be doing it. Gender ideology is undermining any traditional sense of what it is to be a man or a woman.”