Launch an Independent Investigation into the Abuse at Bethlehem College

Launch an Independent Investigation into the Abuse at Bethlehem College

11 June 2022
Petition to
Minister Chris Hipkins (Minister of Education) and
Signatures: 8,001Next goal: 10,000
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Why this petition matters

Started by Shaneel Lal

On June 11, NZ Herald published an article that stated that Bethlehem College in Tauranga requires all students and their families to demonstrate a commitment to the belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Parents are required to agree to tick boxes that confirm this homophobic belief underpins the school’s charter.


When I first posted about the issue of homophobia at Bethlehem College, I did not realise the gravity of the abuse the former and present students have been experiencing at Bethlehem College. I am calling the Education Review Office to launch an independent investigation into Bethlehem College and for the Ministry of Education, the Minister of Education and the Associate Ministers of Education to support this investigation and use their regional offices to assist in the process. 


Students have come forward and shared experiences of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and other forms of discrimination at Bethlehem College. 


Some students have expressed that school staff victim-blame girls for rape or sexual assault and tell them that boys are never at fault. 


“I went to this school and not only are they extremely homophobic (and regularly allowed statements said by educators and students slide without any repercussions; in fact, they supported it) but they’re also rape apologists. We got told in an assembly that boys “can’t control themselves,” and that “their brains aren’t fully developed until they’re 25” … “it is down to what you wear” if you end up getting sexually assaulted. This school and their twisted morals are absolutely fucking disgusting … now the tip of the iceberg has been revealed.” - Former Bethlehem College student. 


There are numerous stories of conversion therapy at Bethlehem College. Students have shared that the counselling services and the teachers at Bethlehem College try to make them non-queer. Students report that teachers have verbally abused them for being queer. 


“As a former student of that school, I can wholeheartedly confirm that I witnessed acts/verbals of racism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, misogyny and overall xenophobia on the daily from teachers and administration. These acts/verbals were further tolerated and encouraged amongst students as well. The counselling ‘service’ they provided was borderline conversion therapy towards LGBTQ+ discussion as well. Anytime students spoke up or took these appalling situations to the administration, it was never dealt with and swept under the rug to protect their precious 'Christian' reputation. This has been happening for years …” - Former Bethlehem College student. 


Others have shared that teachers frequently use the N-word and the students are allowed to wear Black-face to school without consequences. 


“Teachers have been blatantly homophobic, and some have said the N-word in class and nothing was done.” - Former Bethlehem College student. 


“I went to this school. It was so appalling. Borderline abusive. Some of the things I was told by staff and speakers are things that no one should have to go through. They regularly allowed students in Black face. Even when people complained to the administration, nothing was done. The principal even laughed with a student in Black face… The place is a nightmare.” - Former Bethlehem College student. 


Students struggling with mental health problems have been told it's a result of their sin or were told to leave the school because it looked bad for their reputation. 


“I went to that school and it fucked me up. I suffer from a lot of mental health issues, and I was told to leave the school because they didn’t want their reputation jeopardised because of me.” - Former Bethlehem College student. 


“On another occasion, I was also seeing the school counsellor which was supposed to be for the minor mental health issues I was having at the time but I mentioned had a girlfriend and the counsellor spent the whole time focused on that and telling me it was wrong so I stopped going to see the said counsellor because who wants to hear that when they are already struggling with mental health.”


“Just under a year later was the first time I attempted to take my life and ended up in hospital for it and the school acted like they had no idea and like they were completely oblivious that I had mental health issues going on for a while but the thing is they would've known I did if the counsellor they hired hadn't gone on about my "lifestyle choices" for an hour.” - Former Bethlehem College student. 


The students at Bethlehem College are crying out for help. The Ministry and Minister of Education cannot pretend that they cannot do anything or that their hands are tied. If the very people entrusted with the power to ensure all children receive quality education refuse to act, then what hope do we have for the future of the education system of Aotearoa? 


Launch an official independent investigation into Bethlehem College. 


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Signatures: 8,001Next goal: 10,000
Support now