Meet Hannah Williams. She’s Australia’s Constance McMillen, denied a chance to dance at her Melbourne school’s ball because she wanted to bring her girlfriend.
The 16-year-old Williams (left) was told by a teacher at Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School she could not bring Savannah Supski, 15, to the annual formal, but she could bring a male date instead, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. “It made me very upset. I thought it was unfair so I didn’t go,” she says. “I put a lot of effort into trying to fix things. I had meetings with principals; looked through the Equal Opportunity Act; all my friends put posters up around the school and the teachers ripped them down. There was an easy solution; they just needed to let me go with my girlfriend.”
Indeed. Her father Peter filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission claiming sexual orientation discrimination. A September mediation session yielded little, as the school was standing firm in its position that girls should be dating boys, not other girls. Says Peter: “The school kept saying because it is an all-girls school we want to make an event where they can meet boys in a social scenario. That process is anachronistic and creates feelings of discrimination among girls who are same-sex-attracted.”
Principal Heather Schnagl sees nothing wrong with it: “I don’t think it’s appropriate they feel discriminated against, and I’m very upset they feel that. ‘If we opened it up and said girls could bring another female they would all bring females; the policy is trying to create an event where boys are invited. We are a school that has an all-girls environment, and they are meant to invite guests, not partners.” And when all else fails, Schnagl found another thing to have a problem with: “It’s an event for year 11s and the student’s guest was in year 10.” (Hannah says her girl friends were able to bring younger male dates.)
And that’s pretty much where the Williams family left it — decided to change schools instead of press the matter further. Also changing schools? Hannah’s girlfriend Savannah, so they can be together. The decision has the support of Savannah’s mom Sian: “The idea that there had to be a gender balance at the dinner dance seemed to be discriminatory. It was a very difficult time for Savannah but she’s an amazingly strong young person and we are very proud of her.”
So let’s have a round of applause for Hannah and Savannah’s wonderful parents. And some stink eye for an all-girls school that draws the line at all girls.