More than 35,000 students and their parents have signed a petition calling for an ‘unfair’ ban on year 12 school formals to be lifted.
The New South Wales Government on Monday announced formals, dances and graduation ceremonies would be forbidden for the rest of term three due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But mother Debbie Terrantroy has blasted the new restrictions as an ‘unreasonable’ double standard given that weddings with 150 guests are still allowed.
‘It’s just cruel. The school formal is a rite of passage that everyone deserves to have,’ Ms Terrantroy told the ABC.
Her twin sons Jackson and Harrison Wedesweiler, who attend Narara Valley High School and Lisarow High School on the Central Coast, are both devastated their end of school festivities have been cancelled.
‘This year has been hard enough on them already and to take this away from them, especially when this can be done in a COVID-safe way, is just devastating,’ she said.
Ms Terrantroy said the government’s banning of formals and Year 12 celebrations is ‘incompatible with current restrictions in NSW’.
Clubs can currently have 300 people seated, while places of worship can host 100 people.
‘Year 12 students have dealt with enough disruption this year and the unfair and unreasonable denial to students and their parents to attend their child’s graduation is clearly lacking in insight,’ she said.
The mother-of-three said the State Government’s tough rules are particularly unfair for some smaller schools in regional NSW which only have 30 students.
‘The government has been spending a lot of time talking about mental health during the coronavirus pandemic and then they thought it was okay to announce these decisions in the middle of HSC trials, when kids are already struggling with their mental health,’ she said.
Ms Terrantroy said formals can still be COVID-safe with temperature checks, mandatory face masks and marshals ensuring students remain seated.
Year 12 student Hamish Wishart, who attends Junee High School in the Riverina region, said cancelling formals is the ‘last straw’.
‘I was devastated when I heard — everyone at school was — because the formal is always such a fun way to celebrate with your friends,’ he said.
‘To be honest, everything else about this year, being cut short of activities and trips and opportunities because of COVID-19, was kind of alright but this really is the last straw.’
Mother Denise Nightingale said there shouldn’t be a blanket ban on formals, given that some areas in NSW haven’t had a single case of coronavirus.
‘This is a one time event for some kids and it shouldn’t be denied,’ she said.
Schools in NSW are only allowed to hold a year 12 assembly without to recognise the completion of school, but parents and caregivers aren’t allowed to attend.
In addition, choirs, interschool sport, drama and debating have also been banned.
NSW on Thursday recorded five new cases – two from hotel quarantine and three acquired in Sydney’s south west.