A Catholic high school in Argentina has been fined by a local government for discriminating against five students who showed their support for LGBT equality.
Analía Berruezo, Minister of Education, Science, and Technology in the Argentine Province of Salta, fined the elite Colegio Santa María more than 100,000 Argentine pesos (roughly USD $2,600) for discriminating against five students.
In addition, administrators of the high school must either re-admit students who were expelled or help them transfer to another institution, and must conduct government-supervised human rights trainings for all faculty and staff “with a special emphasis on the principle of equality and non-discrimination.”
The Ministry’s ruling results from a discrimination complaint filed by a student’s family after an LGBT-negative incident occurred at Santa María. The Bubble explained:
“It is reported that while Santiago [Coraita, a student] was wearing the LGBTQ+ bracelet, it generated discomfort among the staff, who asked him to take it off immediately. Days later, the institution is said to have apologized for what happened through a letter and even offered to ‘cure’ him, the parents were also informed in the letter that Santiago didn’t conform to the ‘religious canons of the institution.’
“Despite harassment, ignorance, and ill-treatment, Santiago’s classmates decided to support him by wearing the same bracelet in solidarity. However, they were punished as well. The boys expressed themselves on social networks ‘backing’ their classmate; the school, after sharing publications and letters, informed them they were unable to renew their studies at the institution for the 2019 year.”
El Tribuno reported that when meeting with Coraita, administrators allegedly intimidated him by inquiring into aspects of his private life.
Coraita’s parents turned down an initial proposal by school administrators to reverse sanctions and allow the five students to continue their studies next year because the school would not admit any wrongdoing. Coraita’s father, Jorge, said the Ministry’s ruling is satisfactory because “it was established that the school incurred an act of discrimination and, in addition, tried to hide it.”
At Colegio Santa María, showing one’s support for LGBT people through the simple act of wearing a bracelet was treated as a threat, as was the solidarity shown by Santiago Coraita’s classmates. Expelling them for the 2019 school year was wrong; suggesting the school could help “cure” the student was egregious. Hopefully, the Argentine provincial government’s mandate of fines and trainings will be enough incentive for administrators to focus on necessary reforms so there is no further discrimination.
But sadly, incidents like this in which educators at Catholic schools treat students from a place of ignorance and/or prejudice remain all too common. Students in Catholic education deserve educators who are competent in handling issues of gender and sexuality. It should not take painful incidents of discrimination and government mandates for Catholic schools to act. Educators should desire to create proactively the safe learning environments that allow every student to be welcomed and support, especially those students who are most marginalized.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 21, 2018