DF Malan High School, homophobia, queerphobia, pride, LGBTQ, Department of Education, South African Human Rights Commission Illustration of an anti-homophobic petition that. circulated amid an alleged homophobic incident at DF Malan School. Photo: SUPPLIED
After a group of students gathered to celebrate Pride Month while on vacation at DF Malan High School in Cape Town on Monday June 7, they were targeted by students who allegedly harassed them and threw them away. launched homophobic insults. Outrage grew after the school argued that pride celebrations were banned because they “polarized” students.
Now the South African Human Rights Commission has stepped in to investigate allegations of homophobia following the incident, saying it will call an urgent meeting with the director and the Department of Education of the Western Cape to discuss “these allegations and determine a course forward that is in the best interests of the school’s learners.”
Daily Maverick established that Principal Sias Conradie spoke to each class separately on June 8 about the incident. Daily Maverick listened to a recording of his speech to grade 9 students. Conradie said there were two sides to the incident: the students who celebrated Pride Month after the school banned it, and the students who used abusive language against those celebrating.
He said the pride celebrations “polarize” students and are not inclusive. He called the use of the pride flag “commentary” and “propaganda,” and said students should not resort to hate speech but rather follow the appropriate channels if they have grievances.
Conradie asked the students to come forward with the names of the students who had used abusive language and promised to take action against them.
A bachelor student who was part of the target group addressed Daily Maverick on condition of anonymity because she fears being targeted again. She was unaware of the rules that prohibited them from gathering for pride and was sure many others weren’t aware of it either. They didn’t see it as a protest or a sit-in, but a chance for people to celebrate Pride Month. Conradie, she claimed, had said that because there was a flag and they sat in a circle, it was a protest and therefore banned.
“We did not expect it at all and we consider it a form of oppression to prohibit children from celebrating it,” she said. She is surprised because the school “regularly hammers out the fact that [it] is inclusive for everyone ”.
Conradie had stated that they “are not allowed to push [their] beliefs in each other’s throats ”. The student said they explained it was oppression because there is a club for Christians to meet every Wednesday during the break. “At the end of the day, that’s our whole problem – other people are allowed to voice their opinions at school and to celebrate, but pride is not.”
She added that a student who helped run the celebration was later added to a WhatsApp group with the name “fok die queers”(“ F *** les fags ”).
DF Malan’s governing body and the Department of Education
After sending questions to the school and the principal, Daily Maverick received a press release from the school board, which reiterated Conradie’s comments on pride in not being celebrated as it could lead to “tensions and divisions.” The decision was made by Conradie and the governing body.
The statement said the school “regrets the incident” and will develop other plans to tackle discrimination and intolerance. He added that the school is investigating students who have broken the code of conduct and that their psychological support office is supporting those who have been traumatized by the incident.
Debbie Schäfer, MEC Education Western Cape, released A declaration on June 10, that she was “deeply concerned” about the treatment of gay students and promised that her department would work with the school to avoid such incidents in the future.
Social media reactions
Parents at the school said on social media that they believed the incident was “unconstitutional” and “unacceptable” bullying behavior.
Another student said Daily Maverick the group that was seated in the field was heavily targeted. Phrases such as “burn in hell”, “do not be gay” and “sin” were shouted at them. A student had posted sentences like these, and saying such things were also written on notes in their lockers.
Former students of the school said they were “disappointed but not surprised” by the incident.
The school has deactivated two of their Instagram accounts.
Similar trends have emerged in other schools, as illustrated by comments on the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Movement Instagram Stories at Stellenbosch University. Many students and former students explained that they were regularly cursed. Many have said that school staff use Christianity as an excuse for homophobia.
Having to remove any items representing queer pride and not being allowed to bring a same-sex partner to school dances were also common experiences. Some students were not allowed to talk to their same-sex partners at school.
Queerphobia Activism in Schools
A petition was created calling on the school to apologize publicly for silencing its queer community, disciplining queerphobic students, and holding educational seminars for students and staff to promote inclusion in the school. It has more than 13,000 signatures.
These demands have been echoed by many militant movements on social networks. The anti-GBV movement at Stellenbosch University was “heartbroken” by the incident. They preferred not to comment individually, but collectively. “This should be the time to celebrate that young gay people have power and can create spaces where we can challenge ideas of patriarchy and violence against gay bodies and create safe spaces for ourselves,” they said, referring to pride month and the upcoming Youth Day. “We were so proud to see people taking up space,” they said of the rally.
They expressed their disappointment and disgust at the lack of accountability and silence of homosexual students. They were upset that the students gathered for the pride were equated with the queerphobic comments the students faced, which they said were unconstitutional. While queerphobia was prevalent in all schools, they feared that “the schools with the least power and voice would suffer the greatest atrocities and we will probably never hear their stories.” DM
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This notice was published: 2021-06-11 12:50:27