A film about children from same-sex families can’t be shown in NSW schools unless it relates to areas being studied under the curriculum, but the government insists it’s not a ban.
Documentary Gayby Baby can be shown after school hours or during classes where it’s part of the curriculum, a spokeswoman for Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said.
The filmmakers have defended their documentary, following reports parents from a Sydney girls high school were angry their daughters had to watch it.
Mr Piccoli’s spokeswoman confirmed complaints had been received but said the content of the film wasn’t a problem.
Rather, the issue was with plans to cancel classes for screenings and to show it to students whose curriculums didn’t cover such topics, like those in junior grades, she said.
The furore comes after Burwood Girls High School planned to screen the film, directed by former student Maya Newell, during school hours on Friday.
It was to be followed by a morning tea with purple cupcakes and a purple fashion parade, as part of the student-led Wear It Purple initiative, promoting diversity and inclusiveness in schools.
But The Daily Telegraph reported some parents were angry their daughters had to watch the film.
After voicing their concerns, on Tuesday parents were given the option to excuse their daughters from the screening, if they notified the school in writing.
From there, the NSW government weighed in on the debate, with Mr Piccoli directing the Department of Education on Wednesday to ensure the film was not shown in school hours, saying on Macquarie Radio, “schools are not places for political issues to be aired”.
Premier Mike Baird said he supported the film as an example of tolerance, but as an “optional” screening outside school hours.
Ms Newell and producer Charlotte Mars both say Gayby Baby is more about four children growing up than their parents’ sexuality.
Ms Newell, 27, who also comes from a family with same-sex parents, said the media reports were hurtful for those in diverse families.
“If a film that represents your family and your voice is banned from a school, or is told that it’s not appropriate to show other students, I think that sends a very clear message to children being raised in our families that your family is not appropriate for the school curriculum or that it’s different and that difference is bad,” she said on Wednesday.
People had to consider the damage these reports have done for these children, she added.
“There are four kids (in the film) and thousands of kids growing up in same-sex attracted families around Australia who will have had to go to school today and deal with the aftermath of that story,” she said.
While the film is being seen as political, when Ms Newell and Ms Mars decided some five years ago to make Gayby Baby, they could never have imagined they would be releasing the film, out on September 3, during a time when same-sex marriage was on the national agenda.
“The film is not an advocacy film at all,” Ms Newell said on Wednesday.
“It is really just projecting the voice of children who are existing in our society.”