Meriden: Withdraw your support for discrimination against LGBTQIA+ staff and students
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An Open Letter to Principal Dr Julie Greenhalgh
We are dismayed to see that you have signed the open letter to Parliament advocating for the retention of the religious exemption in Section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. As alumnae and members of the school community, we are appalled that Meriden would seek to protect its ability to openly discriminate against LGBTQIA+ students and staff.
For many of us over the years, Meriden has been a place of sanctuary and opportunity where we felt supported, safe and encouraged to be ourselves. Pastoral care has always been the cornerstone of the school, and as students, we were taught to treat each other with kindness. The Christian ethos we learned was centred on love, grace and compassion.
We feel it is impossible to take pride in our old school when it fails to practise the values it preaches. How can Meriden have integrity as an educator of independent young women when it supports discrimination within its own gates? By signing your name to such a harmful petition targeted at your own students and teachers, you have undermined the principles that have made Meriden a wonderful school for over 120 years.
This public statement of intolerance will cause untold damage to the students to whom Meriden owes a duty of care. The school is sending a dangerous message to young LGBTQIA+ people, who may already be struggling with their identity, that the Christian values of love and acceptance do not extend to them. It will jeopardise the wellbeing and mental health of students who may not be ‘out’ yet, and who may feel that they have to hide who they are. No child should ever feel unwelcome or unsafe at school.
We believe it is unacceptable that the school would also threaten its LGBTQIA+ staff in this way. LGBTQIA+ teachers enrich the school community, and are as dedicated and capable as any other member of staff. The suggestion in your open letter that they are not suitable to mentor young people, or that they might ‘denigrate the beliefs and teachings’ of the school, is shameful. Whether Meriden ever intends to exercise their right to expel an LGBTQIA+ teacher or student from the school is irrelevant. The school’s lobbying in favour of the religious exemption has already sent a clear message of prejudice.
At a time when the values of the broader Australian community are becoming more accepting and progressive, the debate over this legislation was a chance for Meriden to show leadership by affirming its support for all staff and students, regardless of sexuality and gender identity. Other Anglican schools such as Cranbrook, SCEGGS and Kambala have done precisely this. It is beyond disappointing that Meriden has not only failed to do so, but has instead actively taken a divisive stance so out of step with community sentiment.
Education is a human right and schools must not be permitted to provide it unequally. No school should be exempt from Australian law, particularly not those that receive substantial public funding. Schools should be places of open expression and personal growth for all, and as alumnae and members of the Meriden community, we must stand up for present and future students and staff. There is only strength to be found in diversity.
We call on you to withdraw your signature from the open letter to Parliament and to pledge your full support for inclusion and equality at Meriden.
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