Take your activism out of the classrooms and do your bloody jobs

via NZ Herald

First-year teacher Ruby Grant has had homophobic graffiti written on her classroom wall. Students have told her she will go to hell.

Now she is fighting back. She spoke out today at the Post Primary Teachers Association conference in support of a call for the Ministry of Education to issue new guidelines to make schools safe for “students, whānau and staff of minority genders and sexualities”.

The association wants the guidelines to include gender-neutral toilets and gender-neutral uniform options in all schools.

Grant, 29, trained as a statistician and gave up her job as a data analyst in Wellington to train as a maths teacher on the job at Onehunga High School this year under the Teach First scheme.

She had never worn a school uniform, attended the uniform-free Wellington High School, which she described as “the most liberal school in the country”, and said she had never experienced serious homophobia before.

“My whole life was this beautiful liberal bubble,” she said.

“Then I moved to South Auckland. I have really been struggling.

At least she’s displaying the right kind of intellectual honesty.   The reality check must have hurt.

“My classroom has been graffitied with homophobia twice. I’ve had a few students come up to me and tell me I’m a sinner and I’ll go to hell.

“But I’m a visitor to South Auckland. People say, ‘Just be yourself and eventually they will respect you,’ or, ‘Try to be less gay.’​”

Grant and other lesbian and gay teachers said gender-neutral toilets and uniform options were important symbols that schools respected students and teachers who were not traditionally heterosexual.

“I see enforced gender roles as quite harmful,” she said.

“Because gender is a spectrum. Sometimes kids can feel uncomfortable in the girls’ toilets and uncomfortable in the boys’ toilets.

And parents are uncomfortable with someone like Grant indoctrinating teaching their kids things outside of the syllabus.   She’s not in teaching to tell kids that gender is a spectrum.   In the children’s lives, gender is defined by mum and dad, and the bible.

Michael Cabral-Tarry, 35, a gay teacher at majority-Pacific Auckland Girls’ Grammar School, said some of his students were evangelical Christians, but they were also very polite.

“They wouldn’t ever tell me that I was going to go to hell even though I suspect a few of them do think that,” he said.

He has helped a group of students to form a lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender group at the school which meets in his classroom.

But in a previous job at Whangarei Boys’ High School someone plastered his car with Playboy centrefolds, and at his own high school in Turangi he felt unable to “come out” as gay because the environment was not supportive.

Unisex toilets put an end to them being used as chess pieces in a larger game of GBLTQI people forcing their choices onto the world.   But that won’t be the end of it.  Mark my words:  if the toilet and uniform issues are sorted (and they are actually easy to sort), they’ll come for other things.  Changing areas and showers for the gym, the pool, theatre.  Can’t do unisex then – can you?

A first-year teacher that is already on the hustings is clearly a GBLTQI activist first and a teacher second.   And as a parent and taxpayer paying for education services for my community, I’m not at all happy about off-curriculum activism hitting the kids.


– NZ Herald


PS:  Onehunga isn’t South Auckland.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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