The head girl of one of Australia’s most prestigious girls’ schools has sparked debate with a speech accusing it of putting profits before students.
Sarah Haynes used her year-end speech to accuse Ravenswood School of peddling an unrealistic image of perfection.
The speech was posted to YouTube and provoked strong responses, both positive and negative, on social media.
The school said the coverage was “unfortunate” but that a legal case meant it could not comment.
Ms Haynes’ sister reportedly left the school mid-year after an alleged bullying incident. Ms Haynes, 18, referred to this in the speech she made last Wednesday, but denied her criticism was part of a “vendetta”.
“For a large part of this year I was hurt, betrayed and very much began to hate certain things and people within the school,” she said.
She said that her speeches were “censored” after she became school captain and complained that the school appeared to provide some students with more opportunities than others.
“Some people work hard and get noticed and good on them. But some people work hard, struggle, and get overlooked.
“It seems to me that today schools are being run more and more like businesses, where everything becomes financially motivated, where more value is placed on those who provide good publicity or financial benefits.”
The school issued a statement saying elements of the speech were the subject of an ongoing court case. Local media reported this involved Ms Haynes’ sister.
It called the speech and subsequent media attention “unfortunate” as it distracted from the celebrations of final-year students.
“As this relates to a matter before the Courts, it is not possible for us to comment on the specifics other than to say this relates to a disagreement about disciplinary action taken against a number of students following an incident of alleged bullying,” the statement said.
“Ravenswood has an overriding obligation to provide a safe and respectful learning environment for every student – and all our girls have the right to feel valued.
“This applies not only to the way girls behave towards one another but also to allowing their freedom to express individual opinions in speeches or otherwise.”
Debate over the merits of the speech spilled onto Ravenswood’s Facebook page, where one commenter called the speech “disgusting” and urged people to “learn the back story”.
But the majority of comments was positive and heaped praise on Ms Haynes.