Despite three bullied LGBTIQ learners recently taking their own lives, some parents at the exclusive Bishops Diocesan College have slammed its efforts to advance a culture of inclusion by flying the LGBTIQ Pride flag.
News24 reported that a letter was recently circulated on social media from “concerned” parents” of the Cape Town Anglican boys college who criticised the school’s leadership for eroding its “esteem and reputation” in the community.
They claim the institution is no longer upholding “tradition, pride in one’s school, a celebration of excellence, respect and manners…” The parents particularly took umbrage at the raising of the LGBTIQ flag at the school.
“The decision to fly the Pride flag together with the Bishops flag does not merely demonstrate support or create awareness of the gay community, but instead demonstrates a direct association between Bishops and the Pride movement and all that it represents,” said the out of touch parents.
“Regardless of their sense of tolerance and acceptance of gay individuals, it is felt by many that the majority of learners do not want themselves or their school as a whole to be viewed as part of, or associated with, the Pride movement,” they wrote.
Soon after, another group of parents issued their own letter in support of the school’s policies and its Principal, Tony Reeler. They also condemned the original letter for espousing “overt homophobia, latent racism and misogyny”.
The parents wrote: “Without engagement and discussion these traditions and values become cast in stone. It takes a strong leader to move in a direction that is seemingly in conflict with staid traditional values. We believe that Tony Reeler is such a leader.”
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi’s wife Rachel, who is a parent at the school, was among those to back Bishops’ progressive steps.
“Transformation should be the number-one priority on everyone’s list, especially in light of South Africa’s history. Every individual, no matter what race, religion or sexual orientation deserves a space to feel safe, accepted and represented, especially in a school setting,” she told News24.
Another parent Melanie Rice said the use of terms like “traditional and family values” are often “used to mask what is in fact racism, elitism and homophobia”.
The furore comes as pressure grows on the authorities to make schools safer and more inclusive for LGBTIQ learners in the wake of three recent tragedies.
Lukhanyo Jongqo, 14, from Kubusie Combined School in Stutterheim, Eastern Cape and Tiro Moalusi, 15, from PJ Simelane Secondary School in Soweto, Gauteng, died by suicide after allegedly being bullied by teachers.
Mpho Falithenjwa, 14, from Orange Farm in Johannesburg also took his own life in June after being bullied because of his sexuality.
Twenty-four Human rights groups and the Legal Resources Centre have separately called on the Department of Basic Education and Minister Angie Motshekga to take urgent steps to ensure the safety and inclusion of LGBTIQ pupils in schools.
These include ensuring that teachers are appropriately sensitised and the implementation of a binding national gender identity and sexual orientation policy “to ensure that educational environments are not fertile ground for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity”.