A school uniform issue at Cheltenham Secondary College has sparked debate in the media today. The Herald-Sun reported this morning:
Some Cheltenham Secondary College parents are outraged at the school’s decision to introduce a new jacket featuring the pride and Indigenous flags.
The two flags are embroidered on the arms of the puffer jacket, one on the right and the other on the left.
The jacket includes the school emblem and the words “respect”, “responsibility”, “personal best” and “community”.
It’s non-compulsory and costs $89.95 to purchase.
The media reporting has focused on parent “outrage” at the indigenous and pride flags being on an item of school uniform, even though all reports acknowledge that the jacket is not compulsory.
(You can see what the jacket looks like in this Facebook post from 29 May, which clearly shows the flags and states that the jacket is an additional non-compulsory item.)
Parents Victoria CEO Gail McHardy was interviewed by Neil Mitchell (recording is no longer available) and approached by the Age for comment.
Here are the comments Gail submitted to the Age:
Parents Victoria’s view
- Victorian Government schools are inclusive, they are required to represent all members of their school community.
- PV believes the main message on the jacket is “Respect, Responsibility, Personal Best & Community”.
- Victorian government school councils in relation to school uniform are required to consult with the school community.
- All Victorian government schools are required to have the indigenous flags flown at the school as do schools from the non government school sector, so unclear the point of the controversy.
- Here are the relevant DE policies that outline what is required by government schools:
Is this a political statement by the school?
We acknowledge that all Australians will have varying values and beliefs (ethical, cultural, moral and personal) how we choose to exercise our personal rights and how that impacts on others is up to the individual. Government schools have to represent everyone in being inclusive, if that is viewed as a political statement by some then then there are parliamentary processes and mechanisms to express their objection. Schools cannot be caught in the middle, they are always walking a “political tight rope” in the diverse world we live today and would not please everyone all the time. We all need to be constructive on how we express our views on any school related issue. This is why Parents Victoria developed our Think, Wait, Communicate tip sheet to support parents to have those discussions when a challenge or concern arises. When there is an opportunity for community consultation i.e. school uniform it is incumbent on the school community to participate at that time.
Should students be allowed to cover or remove the flags?
If students feel that strongly then don’t purchase the puffer jacket, especially if there is an alternative
- The college uniform policy is clear around college expectations and exemptions.
In regard to school community consultation, we have observed the school is proactive with information and updates from the School Council, the Wellbeing Director and Student Representative Council (SRC).