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Queer Avengers: Solidarity with teacher

Queer Avengers: Solidarity with teacher and students taking action against homophobia

The Queer Avengers condemn the suspension of Whangarei science teacher Nigel Studdard, who supported a student action against homophobia. Students at Pompallier College, a Catholic school, planned to wear rainbow wristbands in protest against a homophobic school newsletter.

The Queer Avengers applaud Studdard for taking a principled stand. “He’s even offered free coaching for students preparing for exams,” notes Queer Avenger Sara Fraser. “Studdard has made it clear that he recognises his duty-of-care for students. That’s more than we can say for the principal at Pompallier College, who does not value the lives of queer students.”

The Queer Avengers say that schools are some of the worst places in NZ to be queer or trans. The group cites statistics from the Youth 2007 report on Secondary School students, that 20% of LGB youth commit suicide, compared with only 4% of straight youth. In addition 33% of LGB youth report being bullied at school on the basis of their sexuality.

“Pompallier is far from the only school where students contend with homophobia and other bigotry,” observes Fraser. “What makes it notable is the will to stand up against oppression, and Studdard’s principled support for his students.”

The Queer Avengers applaud students taking action, referencing previous actions taken by staff and students against homophobia. “When Destiny Church held their blackshirt rally against the Civil Unions Act, most of my school walked out in protest,” recalls Queer Avenger Ian Anderson. “It was a secular liberal school, but Destiny was using our facilities. Even in one of the more queer-friendly schools, direct action against homophobia was still necessary.”

More recently students took action against the banning of same-sex couples at school balls, and the Queer Avengers organised a march on the Ministry of Education under the slogan Queer Our Schools.

“It’s essential that students, staff and parents get organised against bigotry,” concludes Fraser. “Queer liberation will not come through parliament; communities must organise to transform their schools and their society.”

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