Bethlehem College Fails Miserably in ERO Report
The New Zealand school gets a fail when it comes to its treatment of LGBTQI+ students.
Update, Feb 2nd PT:
Bethlehem College still refuses to engage with me or Webworm:
Thanks for getting in touch but as I've noted previously we're only engaging with journalists covered by a journalism code of ethics and NZ media law, so there is recourse for appealing unbalanced and inaccurate reporting.
Now, today — to a school that refuses to learn.
You may recall that in 2022, I wrote a series of pieces about my old school in New Zealand, Bethlehem College:
In those pieces I focussed on their outdated and damaging treatment of LGBTQI+ students — as did other media — which led to the Education Review Office opening an investigation into the school.
Bethlehem College is state-integrated, which means they get a shitload of taxpayer money. It also means they have to fall into line with certain standards, like not treating LGBTQI+ students like pieces of human garbage.
The report took a very long time to come out — but today it’s out. You can read it here, and it’s pretty damning.
The ERO found that Bethlehem College has failed to fully develop a culture that “provides safety for all students.”
ERO’s findings are that Bethlehem College has yet to achieve the balance between the preservation of its stated beliefs and meeting its obligations in respect of section 127 of the Education and Training Act 2020, and the National Education and Learning Priorities.
The ERO then focusses on students who have been suffering at Bethlehem College:
A small number of current and former students that ERO talked with felt harmed and deeply hurt by their experiences at the school. These students believed that they had been specifically singled out and subjected to bullying and targeted because of their sexual orientation.
In regards to the school’s health curriculum — it’s rubbish:
A robust health education curriculum delivered in depth to students in regular classroom environments is not evident.
It sounds about as shitty as it was when I attended. For me as a 16 year old in 1999 (yes, I am old) Sex ed consisted of a slideshow of venereal diseases and STIs, followed by a stern warning to only have sex if you’re married to someone (of the opposite sex). I was also taught that when you have sex your soul merges with the other person, so every new sexual relationship means you lose a little bit of your soul.
Reading between the lines, it appears Bethlehem College kicked and screamed like a giant baby during the ERO investigation:
During its engagement with the school through 2022, ERO collected and sighted extensive documentation about the operation of the school. This material was deemed as insufficient in identifying accommodations by the school for students in respect of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
ERO reported to the school on its general findings and recommendations in November 2022 and then subsequently in March 2023. On both occasions, the school contested these findings and the basis on which they were formed.
Knowing the report was being made public today, Bethlehem College principal Larne Edmeades had to face reality and send out a warning to parents. He had to do damage control.
It started well, saying the school is “committed to making every improvement we can to care for our students.”
It then quickly pivoted into a space that shows the school is still kicking and screaming at the concept of catering to students who don’t fit their rigid norms when it comes to sexuality and gender:
“Making every improvement we can to care for our students and promote their well being according to our Christian special character and in that light we are considering the report carefully.”
This is today’s letter in full:
The letter goes on to say the school has, “a number of unanswered questions and real concerns with the report.” This indicates — as expected — that Bethlehem College appears to give exactly zero shits about LGBTQI+ students.
It’s my humble opinion — as a former student — that the principal of the school believes these LGBTQI+ students are destined for a literal eternity in hell, which probably colours how he thinks about them while they’re above ground.
Webworm has reached out for comment from Bethlehem College. In the past they’ve indicated they will never speak to Webworm, but one can live in hope.
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