8 Sep 2020

Scots College takes stand against students' homophobic content

7:01 pm on 8 September 2020

A Wellington school has criticised the actions of students who used homophobic language and images in videos posted on social media.

Scots College sign.

Photo: Google Maps

The posts were uploaded by one student, and shared across Instagram over the weekend.

It followed Scots College's inaugural Pride Week, organised by the school's Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA), which included events such as a mufti day, and form group activities.

On Friday, a number of images and videos from one student's Snapchat account began circling on other social media.

The videos and posts showed some students using homophobic slurs, and using rainbow-flag stickers in inappropriate ways.

In one post, there was the caption "Boycotting Gay Pride Week 2020", written in rainbow-coloured writing.

"Overall, I've just been really disappointed that this could happen in my school, and these people are my peers, that have these views," said Eleanor, a Year 12 member of the QSA, who helped organise Pride Week.

"I struggle to think how these people can have blatant disrespect towards a community."

She said it overshadowed what was otherwise a positive and successful week.

"It was really cool to see how the school actually engaged with [it]. Everyone who wore colour did it meaningfully.

"Overall, we've received an outpouring of support for the week, through the staff and the majority of the students as well."

In a statement, the Wellington-based private school headmaster Graeme Yule said they took immediate action, contacting the students involved and their families, and raising the issue during an assembly.

"If students think that it is ok to behave in a way that demeans, mocks, or makes their fellow students feel bad for being themselves, then they need to learn that this is not who Scots College students are and we will not as a college accept it," he said.

"It is not okay to tolerate attitudes of exclusion."

Another student who is a part of the Queer-Straight Alliance, who wanted to be known as 'R', said it had highlighted the issue of homophobia.

"It's put it a lot more out in the open. Even though this event did happen, it's sped up the process of helping get full support from everyone.

"This is an issue which goes on in many, many schools. It just happened to bubble up during our Pride Week."

Yule said the college was discussing with students and the QSA group the best way to raise awareness of their work.

For the pupils in question, the school is exploring a mixture of restorative, educational, and other possible actions, to ensure they understand the consequences.

"What needs to continue is a lot of small steps, I think," R said.

"I feel like it's lots of enforcement on, if somebody says something, holding them accountable for it.

"It's also making sure the information is out there for people who are using terms but do not know the meaning behind them."

The student who uploaded the offensive material has posted an apology on social media, in which he said he did not intend to use the words in a discriminating manner.

Wellington College Queer-Straight Alliance founding member Joel Tebbs said he hoped something positive would come out of the event.

Wellington College Queer-Straight Alliance founding member Joel Tebbs.

Wellington College Queer-Straight Alliance founding member Joel Tebbs. Photo: RNZ / Harry Lock

"We've had similar situations like this at Col' in the past, and it's really progressed our school to make better actions. For sure, our culture has really changed.

"These sorts of situations aren't ever exclusive to one school - they're shared across the country. So it really shows that the culture in all schools around the country has to move forward."

Eleanor said it had not deterred them, and they would continue to advocate for and enact change.

In an Instagram post, the school's head prefect said the incident had left the community both shocked and hurt, but it shouldn't overshadow the work of the QSA.

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