A Sydney LGBTI activist group will picket outside the offices of the Daily Telegraph on Sunday, in a dual protest targeting both the newspaper and the NSW government over the Gayby Baby film furore.
On Wednesday, the Telegraph's front page proclaimed "Gay Class Uproar," claiming parents at Burwood Girls High School were "outraged" at the school's plan to show the film, a documentary about children with gay parents.
Telegraph columnist Piers Akerman drew much condemnation for an accompanying opinion piece targeting a 12-year-old girl depicted in the film, saying "you are not in a “normal” family, no matter how many LGBTIQ-friendly docos you may be forced to watch by politically-driven school principals".
Rival media outlet The Guardian has since published a story in which the NSW Department of Education claimed it had received zero complaints about the screening of the film at Burwood. On Wednesday afternoon, however, Education Minister Adrian Piccoli sent a directive to every school in NSW, barring the film from being shown in school hours.
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli (Fairfax Media/Louie Douvis)
“During school hours we expect them to be doing maths and English and curriculum matters,” Piccoli told 2GB Radio. “This movie is not part of the curriculum and that’s why I’ve made that direction.”
Cat Rose, organiser of anti-homophobia group Community Action Against Homophobia, told The Huffington Post Australia a protest would form in front of the Telegraph's offices in Sydney on Sunday afternoon.
"The coverage the documentary Gayby Baby was filled with homophobic vitriol. To be going after this 12-year-old girl, essentially bullying her and telling her she's not normal, and making this the front page of the newspaper when there has been not a single protest from any parents, is just outrageous," Rose said.
"This doesn't belong in 2015. This kind of attitude harks back to the 1950s."
Students at Burwood Girls High School in 2014 (Fairfax Media/Janie Barrett)
Rose said the exact details of the protest were to be finalised on Thursday, but that the event would "take the message to the people responsible for stoking this issue to begin with." She said the protest would also take aim at the government, for banning the film in schools.
"The decision to cancel the film... has exposed a homophobic core at the heart of various government decisions. The main argument is that the film is not part of the curriculum, but in fact human relationships and sexuality are part of the curriculum," Rose said.
A curriculum support document available on the Department of Education's website, dated March 2015, states that "Quality sexuality education" includes "respect for self and others" as well as "diversity and inclusion, personal rights and responsibilities, relationships and friendships, effective communication, informed decision-making."
"The push to fully represent the diversity of the human relationship should be part of the curriculum," Rose said.
A Facebook page titled "Students of Burwood Girls" published an impassioned update on Wednesday afternoon in the wake of the controversy, saying the prefects of the school "pride ourselves on our support of diversity - in whatever form it takes" and that "we are proud of the leadership our school shows in supporting all views and the right for all people to be accepted."
A letter to parents posted on the website of Burwood Girls High School, from principal Mia Kumar, confirmed the school would not screen the film.
"After further consideration and adverse attention our school has attracted we have decided that we will no longer be screening the film
'Gayby Baby'. We are proud that we are an outstanding public school and do not like the adverse publicity for our school which detracts from our excellent reputation," the letter read.
"This decision is made in the best interests of not detracting from our intended message of growing our students’ awareness of the importance of diversity in our school community."
The letter states the school will still hold its Wear It Purple Day celebration, with students allowed to wear purple clothing or jewellery.
News Corp Australia declined to comment on both the protest and The Guardian story.