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YouthLaw can help with school ball issues

Wed 14 Aug 2013 In: New Zealand Daily News

File Photo High school students who feel like their school is discriminating against their wish to take a same-sex partner to the ball have an advice-ready advocate ready to help out. YouthLaw is a free national legal service for anyone under 25. It recently took part in a Rainbow Youth gathering where the issues of discrimination at school balls was discussed, and says it’s on hand to aid any young people who feel like their rights are being breached. YouthLaw's Legal Education Coordinator Mira Taitz has heard plenty of stories of teenagers not being allowed to bring the partner of their choice, or having to sign contracts certifying that they are gay in order to do so. “We think that’s hugely problematic. Our view is basically that refusing to allow or same-sex partners or putting such extra conditions on those students would be discriminatory.” Taitz urges students to get in contact if they feel their school is discriminating. “There are other organisations they can go to as well,” she says, listing Rainbow Youth, the Human Rights Commission and YouthLine. There are also GLBTI youth support groups outside Auckland, such was WaQuy in Hamilton, School’s Out in Wellington, Q-Youth in Nelson and Q-Topia in Christchurch. Taitz says YouthLaw is also available to offer advice to schools. She says the organisation is delighted with a letter the Secondary Principals' Association sent to schools this year, warning that banning same-sex ball dates could be discriminatory. “It was great. That was basically reiterating the position of the Human Rights Commission … that was fabulous to see the Secondary Principals' Association come onboard.” However Taitz says it’s clear from young people that “all sorts of things are going on” and “schools are discriminating”. On a brighter note, some schools have also been incredibly supportive of their queer students. Taitz says the issue is one of national concern and YouthLaw is working with Rainbow Youth and YouthLine on how to move forward on the issue. Contact YouthLaw: 0800 UTHLAW (0800 884 529)     

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Wednesday, 14th August 2013 - 10:10am

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