You would think Constance McMillen’s story would teach schools a lesson — discriminating against gay students and preventing same-sex couples from attending dances is not okay. But Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School in Melbourne, Australia didn’t learn the lesson. Hannah Williams, a 16-year-old student, was told that she couldn’t bring her girlfriend to the end-of-year school dance.
Hannah was initially told she couldn’t bring her girlfriend because “the ratio will be off for boy/girl.” On commercial radio, Williams said that the vice principal told her “we’re a girl’s school, you meet girls every day, this is a special event to meet boys.”
When the school came under fire for their homophobic decision, they acted like Williams wasn’t allowed to bring her girlfriend as her date because of her date’s age. The explanation is illogical, considering that her date was only one grade younger than her and at least one other girl was bringing a boy of that same age.
Peter Williams, Hannah’s father, filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission. But the family decided against taking the case further. Both Hannah and her girlfriend recently switched schools.
Heather Schnagl, Ivanhoe principal, defended the decision not to allow Hannah’s girlfriend to attend the dance. She claims the decision had to do with the girl’s age and was “not about same-sex discrimination.”
Schools should be encouraging open and tolerant environments, not exhibiting prejudice by discriminating against LGBT students. Ivanhoe’s discriminatory treatment of Hannah Williams shows a lack of respect for same-sex relationships and sends the message that discriminating against LGBT people is fine. It’s a harmful message to send, with dire consequences for students.
Please take action and ask the Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School to reverse their decision and tell their students that same-sex couples are welcome at school functions. School administration should apologize to Williams for their discriminatory treatment.
Photo credit: Angela Wylie