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Blast over ball ban

Former Campion College student Poppy Smith has taken the Catholic school to task because it does not allow same-sex couples to the annual ball if the partner is from another school.

The 16-year-old says the school’s protocol is a violation of The Human Rights Act of 1993.

She believes nothing will change unless people fight for it.

All other Gisborne high schools allow same-sex partners of both genders to the ball if they do not go to the school.

Campion College principal Paul McGuinness said their ball was primarily for Campion students.

“Any Campion student who is in Year 11, 12 or 13 can attend the ball and bring with them any partner from the college who is in Year 11, 12 or 13. There is no gender discrimination.

“If a Campion student wishes to bring a partner to the ball who does not attend the college, then we ask that the parent of the Campion student endorses the partner and that the partner is of the opposite gender.”

Mr McGuinness said that was a management tool to help minimise risk and provide a safe environment for the evening.

Poppy said she could not see how allowing same-sex couples, if the partner was from another school, would increase the risk or make the ball an unsafe environment.

During her time at Campion, Poppy said the school did not provide or cater towards students struggling with their sexuality.

“Nor did it cater for students outside the closed barriers of Catholicism. All I am asking for is a positive change.”

Poppy now attends Girls’ High School, and says it “flies the rainbow flag with pride”.

Mr McGuinness said people attending the ball who did not go to Campion had less understanding of the kaupapa of the college and could create a greater potential management risk.

“These outside guests are often not known by staff managing the evening. They can also have less regard for the college rules governing the ball and for the staff providing a safe venue.”

Bringing 150 teenagers together for an alcohol-free, formal function from 8pm to 1am had a number of risks, he said.

Mr McGuinness said in past years when the policy was open to “bring anyone”, they had larger sub-groups of outside guests attending and there was more damage and disruption.

“The current policy helps reduce this. Exemptions to this policy are managed on an individual basis.

“The policy will be reviewed with students as part of the debrief of the ball.”

Poppy said a past incident referred to by Mr McGuinness involved a group of boys wreaking havoc on the ball venue, and smashing a bathroom.

“It amazes me how the school decided that implementing such a rule would prohibit another instance like this happening at a school ball.

“If these boys were really set on causing destruction at the venue, they would just get an invitation through their friends who are girls.

“The gay people did not factor into this incident in any way yet somehow are the collateral damage.”

CHANGE MAKER: Poppy Smith believes nothing will change unless people fight for it. The Gisborne Girls’ High School student, 16, is taking on Campion College about a rule she says breaches the Human Rights Act of 1993. Campion students are not allowed to take a partner to their annual ball if they are from a different school and the same sex. Students of the opposite sex from a different school are allowed. Picture by Paul Rickard