Two dads in Australia say they were essentially forced to pull their 7-year-old daughter from her private Christian school after she spoke out in class about her dads being gay — and she was reprimanded by administrators, who then forbade her from ever discussing the topic again or else risk expulsion.
“I was told that they don’t promote ‘gay’ at the school and [my daughter] was unable to talk about my life between [my partner] and me,” one of the fathers, Brendan (who did not want his last name nor his daughter’s name printed in order to protect her privacy), told the Mandurah Mail. “She could mention my name, but she couldn’t talk about us being gay or relating to us as a couple, so … we were forced to say that she wasn’t allowed to talk about Daddy or [my partner] at all.”
Added Brendan, “I told them that I expected my daughter to be able to talk about home life like any other kid in the class.” The dad, who came out recently, had originally enrolled his daughter in the school, the Foundation Christian College, in a Western Australia suburb, with his ex-wife at his side — explaining it’s what prompted principal Andrew Newhouse to say “he felt they were fooled at the interview,” Brendan said. “He said to me that ‘If we knew you were gay at the interview you would never have got in this school.’”
Andrew Newhouse, principal of the Foundation Christian College. (Photo: 9 News)
After trying to fight for their daughter’s right to speak about her family at the school, the two men decided to withdraw her from FCC and enroll her in a public school — though it’s been difficult for the girl to leave her friends. “Why does my daughter have to go through this and lose her best friends due to the person I am?” Brendan asked. “I carry a lot of guilt and I hate that my daughter has to deal with her dad not being accepted.”
Newhouse confirmed to the newspaper that children of same-sex parents are not welcome at the school. “The [school] board are firm in their view that families have a mother and father who raise children jointly,” he told the Mandurah Mail. “The board also has a strong view that families with same-sex parents do not support a Christian world view.” Further, he added, “I mentioned to the parent that if his daughter was to continue this topic of discussion with her peers, then it would be in both his and his daughter’s interests to move to a school that would support his world view.”
Newhouse explained to 9 News that the girl was talking about “her disappointment with Tony Abbott, the then-prime minister, not allowing her dad and his partner to marry.” And the problem with that, Newhouse wrote in a letter to parents, was that “the Christian values being taught in the classroom were being undermined,” adding that “It’s not helpful to confuse children at such a young age with complex and controversial issues.”
But according to Kim Simes, Midwest regional manager for the national nonprofit Family Equality Council, kids this age are more than ready to deal with the basics of family. “She’s the one who brought it up, so clearly it’s not confusing to a 7-year-old,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “I think as adults, we’re the ones who muck it up and make these issues controversial. The kids are fine with it.” Regarding the school’s efforts to silence the girl, Simes notes, “That’s one of the worst forms of bullying there is — to be given the message of ‘your family isn’t worthy,’ and that this is not a safe place to talk about it.” The principal asking her to be quiet about her dads, she adds, “is horrific, and it breaks my heart to know that school officials, who are supposed to have the best interest of kids in mind, are using tactics like that.”
Even many parents at the school, as it turns out, disagree with the administration’s approach. Several have put their heads together and spoken out to the local press, while many others have emailed the school or posted their objections to Facebook. And more than 20,000 people have signed a Change.org petition, asking the local Minister for Education in Australia to “ban schools rejecting kids based on homophobia,” as the private school receives “millions of taxpayer dollars.”
Similar issues have flared between LGBT parents — as well as educators — and Christian schools in this country, as well. Earlier this year, a private Christian school in Tennessee rejected the 3-year-old son of Brian Copeland and Greg Bullard, a pastor, from preschool, noting that “homosexuality” is a “lifestyle conduct which is in opposition” to the school’s mission. And in July, Margie Winters, an eight-year veteran teacher at the Marcy Waldron Academy, a Catholic elementary school in Pennsylvania, was fired for being married to a woman. In that case, too, parents rallied around her and protested the school. While Winters did not get her job back, she was invited to the White House to help greet Pope Francis in September.
When news about Winters broke, Jim Smith, associate director of Dignity USA, a Catholic LGBT organization, told Yahoo Parenting it was flawed to pit Christianity against gay people. “It’s because of our Catholic faith that we believe as we do — because of our faith in Jesus, who was particularly drawn to those who were marginalized,” he said. “Also it’s because of the Church’s [sacrament] that God’s presence is alive wherever love dwells. That teaching is as old as the Church itself.”
(Photo: Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images)