School staff need protection from discrimination too

The Independent Education Union of Australia (IEUA) opposes discrimination based on a person’s sexuality.

The IEUA believes that current exemptions should be removed and that practices in faith based schools, and indeed in any endeavour conducted for the public by faith based organisations, should reflect community standards and expectations.

Teachers and support staff in faith based schools are advised by the IEUA to be discreet if they get divorced, are single parents, gay or lesbian or seeking IVF treatment.

The IEU has represented teachers and support staff whose jobs have been threatened because of all of the above circumstances.

Back in 2015 the union wrote to all major political parties asking for exemptions which relate to marital status and sex discrimination in NSW to be reviewed.

“These exemptions have been in place for 40 years and it’s high time they were reviewed,” IEU Secretary John Quessy said.

“It’s pretty amazing that in this day and age teachers and support staff cannot openly discuss getting a divorce, being a single parent or seeking IVF treatment, let alone being in a single sex relationship, with their employer,” Quessy said.

“Teachers and support staff working in small rural and regional communities feel particularly vulnerable.

“I don’t think the public at large is aware of how wide ranging these exemptions are. I wonder how they would react if they knew this was happening at their children’s school or preschool?”

The IEUA does not accept that the faith based school communities in Australia are so fragile that they require exemptions from discrimination laws.

The IEUA notes that several jurisdictions do not have these exemptions, for either staff or students, and in these states, faith based schools have flourished and enrolments continue to grow.

Not having the right to discriminate has not undermined the capacity of faith based schools to operate.

The IEUA believes that:

· all staff and students in schools deserve safe workplaces/learning environments, and

· staff in schools should not be discriminated against on the basis of their personal lives.

The IEUA believes that faith based schools have the capacity and resilience to continue to operate in the absence of discrimination exemptions and that Australia’s current community standards would judge that discrimination on the basis of sexuality is unsustainable.

Additionally, the IEUA notes that the current NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 contains exemptions across a range of areas for ‘private educational authorities’, not just faith based schools. For example a teacher with a disability can be distriminated agaist in the offer of employment, when seeking promotion or transfer and can be dismissed all within the law.

“This provision needs immediate review and change,” Quessy said.



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