The final year of high school is usually a time of celebrations, goodbyes and lots of dancing, but coronavirus has stopped all that in its tracks.
Last week, the NSW Government announced that school formals and graduation ceremonies would not be going ahead for the rest of term three – which is when all of the state’s Year 12 students will be graduating.
However, the class of 2020 has hit back with a petition calling for the blanket ban to be removed.
The government appears to be bowing to the pressure, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying that school “milestone” events aren’t fully off the cards for term four.
But the idea of having a school formal during a global pandemic has left some frustrated, and some have slammed the petition as selfish on social media.
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“If we keep virus numbers low, my expectation is that all students across the state will be able to have important milestone ceremonies,” the NSW Premier told press today.
Ms Berejiklian said the health advice will be reviewed in term four, but reminded people that progress needs to happen “one step at a time”.
“As we’ve said from day one the health advice around school formals and milestone events only apply to term three, and that’s because we don’t want to have to issue alerts where schools have been closed down or exams have been disrupted,” Ms Berejiklian added.
Central Coast mother-of-three Debbie Terrantroy has started a petition with 52,000 signatures so far, calling for final year high schoolers to be allowed to have formals and graduation ceremonies now.
“It’s not fair,” she told news.com.au. “It’s hypocritical.”
She said it was “illogical” for football games and corporate events to be allowed to go ahead during the coronavirus pandemic, but year 12 students are being denied their only chance to properly graduate.
As per NSW rules, 150 people or one person per 4sq m (whichever is fewer) can attend a corporate event or a wedding.
“Throughout the pandemic it’s been drummed into us that schools are safe places,” Ms Terrantroy said. “But now they’re saying it will be unsafe for this to happen.”
With twin sons graduating this year, she wants them to have something to look forward to after the hard slog of HSC.
Ms Terrantroy is not alone. Emily Cox is a Year 12 student and school captain of her western Sydney school, and she’s also been campaigning for formals to be allowed.
The news of school formals being banned “was quite disappointing,” according to Miss Cox.
“(It was) the one thing we were all kind of looking forward to. Especially for parents,” she told news.com.au.
“Why are having football games and people at pubs and clubs allowed but we can’t celebrate this milestone?”
She also pointed out she’s been going to school five days a week with her peers, so what harm would one more night with them do?
“We cant have a formal even though we spend every single day with these people,” she said.
“To me it didn’t make sense.”
However, when Ms Cox asked for support for the petition on a Facebook page, the HSC Discussion Group 2020, she was met overwhelmingly with negative comments.
“We’re in a pandemic … there is a good damn reason there are no formals currently going ahead,” said one student.
“The sheer ignorance in this campaign is embarrassing. You can’t have hundreds of people gathered in one place with a rising community transmission just because you believe ‘we deserve it.’”
Another person compared petition organisers to toilet paper hoarders: “It’s completely selfish and ignorant, just like the behaviour of the people that you were probably laughing at a few months back when they were hoarding toilet paper.”
“More important issues at hand,” said another.
Ms Cox said most of the comments came from a place of ignorance, with most students not realising that other events attracting huge crowds were allowed to go ahead.
“Most of those people didn’t actually read my post. I said specifically this is not out of selfishness, it’s so the students of 2020 can come together in a COVID-safe way.”
Ms Terrantroy was also unperturbed by the haters campaign she started attracted.
“I understand people think there’s way bigger things than a formal and graduation. And if there were no corporate events allowed, no wedding events allowed, the petition wouldn’t be happening, but the fact is these things are happening,” she said.
“Yes there are bigger things, but that’s not the point of this petition. The point is fairness across the board.
“But there’s no way that (a formal) is less safe than 7000 people attending an NRL. It’s just illogical.”
She added that when people actually thought it through, there was widespread support for her petition.
“There’s been less than a handful of criticisms from my own community,” she said. But she said most people get on board once they realise the “hypocrisy” of state rules.