Citipointe college referred to Human Rights Commission over withdrawn student enrolment contracts

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP</span>
Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP

Parents and former students of Citipointe Christian college, one of Queensland’s largest independent schools, will today file a series of discrimination complaints related to the school’s attempt to institute controversial enrolment contracts with anti-gay and anti-trans provisions.

The five complaints, coordinated by the LGBTI Legal Service, will be lodged with the Queensland Human Rights Commission.

The contracts, which were sent to families earlier this year and later abandoned by the school, asked families to sign a statement of faith that implied transgender students would only be recognised by their “biological sex”, and described homosexual acts as “immoral” and “offensive to God”.

Community outrage also had a significant impact on the federal debate about proposed religious freedom laws, which were shelved by the federal government after Coalition MPs crossed the floor to add protections for LGBTI students at religious schools.

Related: Principal of Citipointe Christian college resigns amid concerns about school policies towards LGBTQ+ students and staff

Guardian Australia revealed the principal who instituted the contracts, Citipointe church pastor Brian Mulheran, had previously lobbied senators to allow employers “the right to discriminate” against gay people.

In his statement withdrawing the contracts, Mulheran said the college “does not and will not” discriminate against students on the basis of sexuality or gender identity, but that it will continue to assert its “freedom” to maintain its Christian ethos and beliefs.

“It is central to our faith that being gay or transgender in no way diminishes a person’s humanity or dignity in God’s eyes,” he said.

Mulheran has since resigned and the school says it has abandoned the contracts and the church “statement of faith”. The school also said it was re-wording employment contracts that warn staff they could be sacked for being openly gay.

Earlier this year, Citipointe also sought to implement restrictions on school counsellors from providing any support to students on matters of sexuality or gender identity, citing state government legislation. They said students who sought counselling for those issues would be referred to experts outside the college.

The parents and former students behind the complaints to the Human Rights Commission say they want to ensure no other religious schools attempt policies that discriminate against vulnerable students.

“Every child deserves to be treated with dignity and respect when they walk through the school gate, and to be supported to learn, grow and to be who they are,” said Janina Leo, the mother of a former student at Citipointe.

“When I read the contract put out by Citipointe I was heartbroken that the identity of my daughter Emmey, and others like her, would not be recognised and supported by the school.

“I had no choice but to remove my children from Citipointe as I would not sign a contract that supported discrimination against my own child and other LBGTIQ+ children,” Leo said.

Helen Clapham-Burns, a former teacher who quit the school earlier this year, and the parent of former student, said: “As a Christian educator, my faith informs my duty of care to provide love and safety for all students – no exceptions.”

“The events that took place at Citipointe were in direct opposition to that calling. We need to make sure this can never happen again. Not at Citipointe, and not in any school in Australia.”

The LGBTI Legal Service has been assisting complainants since earlier this year. Matilda Alexander from the legal service said there had been a groundswell of support for people affected, including from communities of faith.

“Our clients have suffered greatly due to these actions and these children will bear the scars for many years to come,” Alexander said.

Comment has been sought from Citipointe.

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