Australian Christian college principal refuses to take on student teachers who wear hijab

Principal Mark Bensley refused two Muslim women from completing their work placement at Redlands College in Queensland, Australia.

The principal of a Christian school in Australia has been criticised by parents and members of the public for refusing to take on two Muslim women who wore hijabs on their first day of work placement.

People took to Facebook and Twitter to express their disappointment at Principal Mark Bensley’s decision.

Redlands College parent Jennie Duke wrote she was “so very sad” her daughter attended the school and her university sent student teachers there.

Others re-branded Redlands College as “Redneck College” and questioned Mr Bentley’s Christian faith.

“It’s not very “Christian like” for a Christian school to tell student teachers that they are not welcome to teach and learn because they wear a hijab” one person wrote on the The Courier Mail’s website.

“Shame on you Redlands College. This could have been a very good way to show Christian love and acceptance.”

The two Muslim students were allocated positions to begin their work placement at Redlands College, as they are in their final year of studying teaching at university.

But Mr Bensley didn’t allow the women to continue their placement, and justified his decision in the college newsletter on Tuesday, claiming he acted inside his “duty of care”.

“I have a duty of care to ensure that those teaching at the College are actively supporting the Christian principles, practices and beliefs of the College,” he wrote.

He continued by writing that he viewed the wearing of the hijab to be in direct opposition to the principles which the college upholds.

Mr Bensley said he respected the two women’s right to wear the hijab but felt it was inappropriate at his school, and had them transferred to another school to complete their placement.

Redlands College said that they were accepting and loving of all people from all cultures and religions.

“We are not aware that they [student teachers] had any concerns, and it is our understanding that all parties came to a mutual agreement for the benefit of all,” the school said.

Redlands also claimed that they would not hide their Christian values and were there to provide for the families seeking a Christian education.

A spokesperson for the school said that the decision had nothing to do with intolerance and they condemn any form of that behaviour.

According to Section 25 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991, employers are allowed to enforce a “genuine occupational requirement that workers act in a way that is consistent with the religious beliefs of the school”.

However, the decision has upset many, including the Muslim community with the Islamic College of Brisbane principal saying the decision was a matter of great concern.

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