Posted on Facebook by Daniel Baker on August 20, 2013 and reproduced with permission:
Mount Scopus continues to ignore the needs of its LGBTQ students. Here is my most recent letter to the Principal and the head of the Board:
Dear Rabbi Kennard and Ms Kennett,
Thank you for your email dated August 12.
I must say that I am disappointed with your response. My emails dated 24 June and 25 July were responses to and questions on Rabbi Kennard’s letter dated 18 February, and it seems disingenuous to suggest that that letter could somehow provide the answers to the very comments and questions it raised. I have explained in a number of emails why Rabbi Kennard’s response was insufficient and, in some cases, erroneous – for instance, in its comparison of homosexuality to Shabbat violation. The school’s refusal to respond to these concerns raises serious questions about its commitment to equality and student well-being.
Additionally, and beyond the immediate issue of same-sex attracted students, I must say that your response raises concerns about the way the School treats concerned stake-holders. When I began calling on Mount Scopus to join the SSCV, and when my campaign was gaining significant public attention, Rabbi Kennard urged me to keep this matter private. He promised a constructive and meaningful dialogue in the interests of protecting the safety and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer students. While I appreciated his letter dated 18 February, I do not think that a single letter followed by continued refusals to engage further constitutes real dialogue. To the contrary, it seems to reflect a lack of good faith on the part of the Principal.
As I have acknowledged on numerous occasions, it is of course the prerogative of the Principal and the Board to determine the school’s direction. What I seek is not an immediate policy change along the lines I have suggested, but a considered response to the 5 key points I raised in my email of 25 July. Those points are directly raised by Rabbi Kennard’s letter of 18 February, and the School’s claim to care about its same-sex attracted students cannot be taken seriously until they have been addressed.
I note that according to your email the correspondence between me and Rabbi Kennard was addressed at a recent meeting of the Board. Are you willing to make the notes of this meeting available to the public?
As a gay student I felt as though my school was not a place I could be comfortable at, the issues surrounding sexual identity were ignored unless from an academic, religious perspective which was far from inviting.. I love the school and the community and that’s why I want it to be as positive of an influence on the life of each student and the community as it possibly can be
SSCV is a great initiative; it educates children about subjects that would otherwise remain taboo in some communities and it makes schools safer for same-sex attracted and gender-diverse kids. The earlier kids are taught about this stuff, the more likely they are to grow up open-minded.
I used to be indifferent. I used to not care about homosexuality and the phrases ”that’s so gay” and ”faggot” used to fly right out of my mouth. I was uneducated. Sure my aunty whom I hadn’t seen in years was gay, as was my second cousin, but I never really felt an emotional stigma to fight for rights to a concept I had no idea about.
In 2011, I became very close friends with a very quirky and intelligent guy whom I suspected was gay, not that at the time I really cared, as I said before I was incredibly indifferent. However, once you start to love and trust someone, and recognise that your carelessness is probably keeping them from trusting you, you know changes have to be made. I think education is important not just for those who are rabid homophobics, but for those who have no stance, like I once had. What most of these indifferent individuals need to recognise is that those seemingly harmless everyday words and phrases that we just throw around for the sake of fitting into the mainstream vernacular could be hurting anyone. You could be hurting your sister, your brother, your teacher, your peers, or even your best friend. The removal of the subtle undercurrent of homophobia that is ever-present in Mount Scopus is absolutely essential to the mental and physical wellbeing of the students of the present, and of the future. Let’s fix ignorance.
Scopus should show its adhernence of the ethos of having a safe and welcoming learning environment for ALL – including students and staff. Being a current student at school here, I believe that the lid must be opened on this issue.
I think the issue goes beyond creating a safe environment; it’s about communicating a message to all students that gays are an equal part of the Jewish covenant, and therefore carry the same responsibility to build authentic Jewish lives and homes. This affirmative message is as important for Scopus, as for a synagogue community.
I am a former student of Mt Scopus. My work as a rabbi brings me into contact with many folk from the GLBTQ community. Many of whom have gifted wonderful talents to Jewish life and continuity. If all of us are created B’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, shouldn’t GLBTQ students, teachers and members of the College community, not be cherished and accepted, just the way they have been created?
I believe it is the right for everyone to choose the way they wish to live as long as it doesn’t impact on others. The prime minister of England has brought into law the ability for have a same sex marriage. It is after all, the 21st century
Everyone, children and adults, deserve to be in an environment where their sexual orientation is respected, they feel safe and where tolerance and acceptance towards and others is not only taught, but enforced. This is a fantastic initiative, you have my full support.
Each and every person, without exception, deserves equal rights and freedom to exist in harmony and complete safety amongst their peers. Schools and other youth organisations must adopt a zero tolerence for homophobia. Protection of our children is paramount whilst they grow and try to find their way in life. I speak from the experience of being a totally supportive parent of a gay son.
As one of the largest educational organisations of Jewish children in Australia, its integral that our children are brought up and educated in an environment which fosters positive attitudes, tolerance, acceptance and understanding of differences in colour, Race, Creed, religion and of course Sexual preferance
As an alumni of this school, as well as the sibling of a gay alumni of this school, I feel it is crucial Mount Scopus gets with the time and provides every single student and teacher a safe environment in which they can thrive. This should be independent of sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity or anything else.
As a gay student, I found life extremely difficult going to a school where homophobia was abundant. I would like all schools to be safer and more tolerant, which this petition will hopefully provide for your school.
Growing up is a tough time. We, as adults, remember how hard it was. We need to create as many safe spaces as we can, and actively promote acceptance and love. Please take this small step, join the SSCV, because though it may not directly affect the adults at MSMC, it will mean THE WORLD to the students who you help. It will make their time at your school so much more enjoyable. Thank you.
Mount Scopus should show its commitment to providing a safe and respectful campus environment for all gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other queer students and teachers, and to take all necessary steps to ensure that its campus is a safe space for all, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
In particular, my niece and nephew are students at Mt Scopus and I want them to have the safest environment possible. No student should fear going to school because of bullying because they are different. The school must set the highest standard possible and protect all their students, immediately.