Gay student was ‘suspended and outed to parents’ by Christian school

A former student at a Christian school has claimed he was suspended and outed as gay to his parents, as part of a report on LGBTQ+ discrimination in faith-based schools in Australia.

In 2011, when he was 15, James Elliot-Watson alleges he was suspended by the independent Christian school in Sydney and prevented from becoming a prefect, as well as being outed to his parents.

In Australia, an average of one in every three students is enrolled in non-private schools, most of which have religious affiliations. Almost 40 per cent of staff are employed by the same institutions.

On Monday (25 March), Equality Australia posted Elliot-Watson’s story – one of 26 researched – to mark the release of its national report on LGBTQ+ discrimination in faith-based schools and organisations.

In a video posted by the not-for-profit organisation, Elliot-Watson, says: “I experienced discrimination at my Christian school. I came out in class and following that I was pulled into the vice-principal’s office. I was told that I would incur a school suspension [and] would no longer be able to stand for prefect.” 

A year-10 pupil at the time, he says he was told to tell no one, not even his twin, and his parents were called.

The report notes that what the school did was completely legal, and that in many places in Australia, LGBTQ+ staff continue to be at risk of being fired just for being who they are. “It was a fear campaign that was run by people in the school to make me scared straight,” Elliot-Watson adds. 

“Growing up is hard enough without the school you go to attacking you for who you are.” 

The post concluded: “Discrimination should have no place in our schools. Reforms are simply the right thing to do.” 

Equality Australia stated that ‘Dismissed, Denied and Demeaned: A national report on LGBTQ+ discrimination in faith-based schools and organisations’ is “ground-breaking” and reveals “in shocking detail the extent of the discrimination and simple solutions to fix it”. 

The report highlights that 90 per cent nine of Catholic schools reviewed published little information about LGBTQ+ inclusion, making it difficult to know if inclusivity is welcome. 

It also found that almost one in 10 of the country’s largest faith-based service providers publicly discriminates against LGBTQ+ people, while an average of close to four in 10 remain silent about whether they offer LGBTQ+ inclusion. 

Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown said: “These schools rely on millions of dollars of public funding and yet they are legally allowed to fire a gay teacher or deny them a promotion while students can be expelled, told they are going to hell or held back from leadership roles.” 

Brown, a lawyer, added: “The prime minister [Anthony Albanese] has signalled his willingness to work across the chamber and we are calling on all parliamentarians to act now to ensure our laws reflect modern community expectations.”

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