Student tells school stop playing 'God in children's lives'

A FORMER Noosa District State High School student is telling the school to stop "playing God in children's lives".

Samantha Hannay has written an open letter to her former high school after her sister-in-law Yazmin Hannay was excluded from participating in last week's graduation ceremony.

Yazmin Hannay said she was stopped by a teacher as she approached the stage to receive her graduation certificate and made to sit on a chair to the side.

"It was pretty humiliating.

"I'd turned up and I was seen outside by a receptionist who told me to line up in alphabetical order so I did and started walking down the hall.

"A teacher stopped me on my way and told me I would not be walking across the stage and my name would not be called out and to take a seat to the side."

She said he didn't specify a reason.

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"I went and sat down on the side by my own with a bunch of empty chairs around me. I wasn't approached by any teachers or anyone."

She said her parents went and spoke to a teacher after her little brother spotted her sitting by herself near the stage.

"They asked for the reason and he [the teacher] basically said I didn't meet the requirements."

Yazmin walks towards the graduation stage moment before being told she won't be participating.
Yazmin walks towards the graduation stage moment before being told she won't be participating. Contributed

Prior to graduation Miss Hannay had been sick, missing some compulsory activities.

"Basically they told me that I could bring in a medical certificate to cover myself.

"They didn't specify a time for it to be handed in so I brought it in the day of graduation and handed it in about 3pm and the office lady said it was all good.

"I'd even contacted the school to let them know I'd be dropping in the medical certificate."  

Miss Hannay said she had also been corresponding with her teachers the week she was sick.

"I was sending work back and forth. So even though I'd done all of my work and the medical certificate had been handed it I wasn't allowed to graduate."

That day Miss Hannay had had her hair and nails done and put on a dress and jewellery her parents had bought her.

"I was so embarrassed I just wanted to leave. A couple of friends came and asked me what was happening. I told them I wasn't allowed to walk across the stage."

Miss Hannay was also excluded from attending the formal but this she knew.

"I was told in October I wasn't allowed to go to the formal because my school fees had to be paid for and because of attendance reasons. 

"But when they told me I wouldn't be going to the formal they didn't say anything about the graduation ceremony.

"I understand going to the formal is a privilege as opposed to the graduation ceremony which I was entitled to because I'd done all my work.

"My name was even in the graduation book. The first thing I did was check to see if my name was there."

Now Miss Hannay is wondering if she has finished school or not.

"I don't know if I've completed grade 12 or will be getting my GCE or not. I haven't been contacted. I would like to know whether I am marked as completing year 12 or not."

She said she hasn't contacted the school because she is worried they will be rude to her.

"They don't seem they want to resolve the issue."

In her open letter, Samantha Hannay said the school had been letting children down "year after year".

She told ARM in 2014 her husband, Dan Hannay was advised he couldn't complete his OP exams despite passing all of his OP subjects.

"Week of the OP exams they called him in to the office and said it wouldn't be appropriate to sit his OP exams.

"We called the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority who said they [the school] couldn't do that. They said they could step in but they had seen students expelled.

"So he decided he'd just graduate."

Together since 2013, the young couple were living together with Mr Hannay working to pay bills.

"When he was in grade 12 I fell pregnant so he had to work a little bit more then and we were paying a lot of rent and money for doctors' appointments because I had to see a private doctor, I had some health issues.

"The teachers he had were mostly good but the principal and deputy said this was not a good enough excuse for him to be missing school. 

"I watched him work until midnight most nights, do assignments, go to bed at 2am, get up at 6am and catch the school bus.

"He said he'd regret it if he didn't get his year 12."

Like his sister, Mr Hannay was not permitted to go to the formal but he was allowed to graduate.

"One teacher felt so sorry for him they gave us a certificate to go out to dinner," Mrs Hannay said.

"He was working hard to provide for his family. He was trying to do the right thing and I wish they would have supported him more."

She said in her grade, students were expelled weeks before graduation over the "stupidest things".

"I graduated in 2011 and back then a kid made a joke in assembly and he was asked to leave school.

"They were always threatening if you don't come to swimming carnival, sports day or orientation week you won't go to your formal.

"I don't think this is right, it's not like you haven't worked hard.

"I don't think you should be able to do what you want and there be no repercussion but kids in my grade that wagged school and they got to graduate but you miss a sports day and you don't."

Now a student at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Mrs Hannay is calling on the school to stop playing "God in children's lives".

"It is not ok to play God in children's lives, it is not ok to take away what they have rightfully worked for and earned for the last 12 years of their lives, it is not ok to humiliate and embarrass children.

"You are supposed to support children, to help them be the best they can be. It is a public school supposed to cater for people in all different circumstances, and from all walks of life," she wrote in her open letter on Facebook.

Yazmin and her family left the graduation ceremony.
Yazmin and her family left the graduation ceremony. Contributed

In a statement provided to ARM, Noosa District State High School principal Chris Roff said the school "maintains and communicates a high standard of senior academic good standing and post compulsory school age participation expectations".

"Like all schools, we are bound by agreement to the terms and conditions imposed by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) in relation to the assessment and certification of student education profiles (final results)

"One component is attendance, which should be 80% minimum for the final year (year 12)."

He said Miss Hannay's attendance for the year was 57.43%.

"Technically [this] makes her ineligible for a Senior Education Profile. There is some principal's discretion around this, which I have exercised in favour of Yazmin."

Mr Roff also said all of the 184 Year 12 students were made aware the last week of school was a "compulsory attendance period".

"All year 12 students have been informed via assemblies, newsletter, information sheets and in a variety of other ways that attendance during the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the final week of year 12 is a compulsory requirement for being recognised publicly on stage during the graduation ceremony, held on Thursday 17th November.

"181 students attended all three days.  A small number of students had prearranged commitments, which were advised to the school in good time, and negotiated successfully with parents.

"Yazmin, nor any of her family, contacted the school administration office during these three days to explain where she was. The school made numerous attempts to contact her, leaving messages that were not returned. We have recently discovered that a teacher directly advised Yazmin to do this, as late as Thursday morning. 

"On Thursday morning, the decision to allow Yazmin to graduate despite poor attendance was made - as was the decision to withdraw her name from the list of students to be presented upon the stage that afternoon," Mr Roff said.

Miss Hannay has shared photos of her phone log showing calls made to the school and screenshots of the correspondence between herself and a teacher during her absence on the open letter on Facebook.