Wellington's Scots College Pride Week marred by homophobic posts, leaves students 'deeply upset'

A Presbyterian boarding school in Wellington has promised students will "understand the consequences of their actions" after homophobic social media posts circulated widely during the school's LGBTQI+ Pride Week.

In an Instagram post seen by Newshub, a Scots College student whose back has unwittingly been covered in pride stickers is photographed from behind with the caption "smh [shake my head] you gay n****".

Another is captioned "boycotting gay pride week 2020", while a third is a Snapchat message showing a rainbow flag with a cross through it.

The images left some staff and students "deeply upset", Headmaster Graeme Yule told Newshub.
The images left some staff and students "deeply upset", Headmaster Graeme Yule told Newshub. Photo credit: Supplied

The student responsible received both widespread condemnation and support for the original "hateful" post, according to an LGBT alumnus who sent the screenshots to Newshub.

Scots College Headmaster Graeme Yule admitted the posts had caused deep hurt within the community, tarnishing what had otherwise been a "very successful week" celebrating inclusion and diversity.

"The action of the student making the post was extremely disappointing and in no way reflects the values of the college. Our community is deeply upset and has been hurt by this," he said.

"Upon being made aware of the post we were able to identify the students involved and immediately contacted them and their families."

The school is still investigating the matter, but Yule said the students involved would be subjected to a mixture of "restorative measures and other possible sanctions", with the key aim of ensuring they "understand the consequences of their actions".

After consultation with staff members, Yule also held a restorative meeting on Monday morning with the entire year level, at which the school's culture, values and expectations were reinforced and students were given an open forum to discuss their feelings.

"Our key messages are that such actions are totally inappropriate, that these actions in no way reflect the values of our college and its student body, that we are inclusive of students of all race, gender and ethnicity," he said.

"I also pointed out the hurt that such actions have on others, and students had the opportunity to convey this in our meeting as well."

Homophobic slurs 'very common' at Scots College

The LGBT former student who passed on the posts to Newshub said he wished to remain anonymous "for fear of the condemnation I'd get from my peers".

However he says he was subject to a culture of homophobia when he attended Scots College, where openly gay students were routinely "ridiculed by a large number of students".

"Casual use of words like 'f****t' and 'gay' in inappropriate contexts is very common at Scots," he said. "Whilst the school attempts to put on a progressive front, the reality for LGBT pupils is far from this."

While Headmaster Yule was unable to comment specifically on the former student's experience, he said the boarding school had since developed a pastoral system to support students.

"With specific reference to LGBT students we have a well-established and active group of staff and students who advocate and support on gender issues," he said.

"We also have educative programs and liaise with external providers such as Mates and Dates and Rape Crisis to deliver programs within the College."

Yule says the school has been hurt and disappointed by the social media posts, and believe they are "in no way reflective of who we are as a college and the values we stand for".

'I have let down my family': Student apologises for post

In a lengthy social media post, the student at the centre of the social media maelstrom apologised for his "hurtful" comments and promised to stop using anti-gay slang.

"I have let not only myself down, I have also let down my family, and my school," he wrote.

"But through personal education I will be taking action to separate myself from slang, more specifically using gay as an adjective to describe something as uncool."

"Some of my closest family members are apart (sic) of the LGBTQ+ community and the last thing I would want to do is hurt them. To see them afraid of expressing themselves for who they truly are.

"Although my religion and views are controversial, I have realised that it is not my job to judge. That is God's job. Not mine. It is my job to love and accept."

Later in the message, the student acknowledged many of his peers would still not like him despite the apology and efforts to change his behaviour.

He also claimed he'd received hate mail and been cyber-bullied by hundreds of people since his post.