School in gay supporters' sights

By Mike Dinsdale

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A gay support group wants to help set up a branch at Whangarei's Pompallier College so the school can show it won't tolerate homophobic or transphobic bullying.

The Queer-Straight Alliance Network Aotearoa (QSA) said it had students from the school keen to set up the group and it would help them do so.

The move comes after Pompallier suspended teacher Nigel Studdart last Wednesday - the same day some students planned a silent protest against comments by principal Richard Stanton opposing the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill in a school newsletter.

A Facebook page was set up on which many pupils expressed outrage at the comments and some planned to wear rainbow ribbons to show their support for gay marriage.

Mr Studdart said he was told he was being suspended after he had encouraged students to display their support by wearing a rainbow wristband.

He has since gained the support of his union, many of the school's students and gay and lesbian support groups around the country.

A QAS spokeswoman says the organisation thinks it will be beneficial to set up a group at Pompallier College.

"Supporting the students at Pompallier College to set up a queer-straight alliance would be a really great way for the principal and the board of trustees to show that they do value and accept their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex students, students of same-sex parents and allies," the spokeswoman said.

"Having a queer-straight alliance in a school provides a safe, supportive environment for students and sends a clear message from the school that it's okay to be who you are and that they won't tolerate homophobic or transphobic bullying."

She said QSA Network Aotearoa would also like to see Pompallier College reinstate Mr Studdart and endorse the establishment of a queer-straight alliance at the school.

Mr Stanton said he was not aware of the college having received any correspondence from QSA.

"We welcome correspondence from our community members and will attend to all correspondence in an appropriate and timely manner," he said.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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