Dozens of former school captains from the elite Trinity Grammar have written a scathing open letter to the council and headmaster in protest at the sacking of the deputy principal.
Rohan Brown was stood down last week for “contravening disciplinary procedures” for giving a boy a haircut before school photos.
On Monday, 50 former captains and vice-captains from the Melbourne school emailed headmaster Michael Davies and council chairman Rod Lyle to announce they had lost confidence in their leadership.
The captains expressed their “profound disappointment” Mr Brown was sacked after an “exemplary 30-year career at Trinity”.
The three-page email, published in full online, accused the headmaster and council of changing the school culture to focus merely on gaining competitive VCE results to increase profits.
“This has seen a dramatic shift from Trinity’s position as a non-selective, non-elite school dedicated to holistic personal development, to an institution focused on ‘exceptional’ performance defined by ATAR excellence, growth and profit,” the letter said.
“Rohan stood in the face of that new direction as a core of the school’s traditional values.”
The captains said the sacking was disproportionate and claimed it was “patently clear that Rohan’s dismissal was not for any genuinely-held concern about community expectations, but rather because he was the ‘Old Guard’ that stood for the traditional values that the current executive rejects”.
The captains said they were, “above all else”, most concerned about the welfare of the student in question.
“It is unacceptable that he should now find himself at the centre of a heated political issue that in all reality has nothing to do with him,” the email said.
“He does not deserve it, and the responsibility for his predicament lies squarely at the School Council’s feet.”
The boy and his family have stood by the beloved deputy headmaster and called for him to be reinstated.
On Sunday, Trinity Grammar announced an independent review into the dismissal.
In a statement, the school said the review would be “carried out by a suitably qualified expert” and would be “full and frank”.
“Trinity’s council has committed to accepting the findings and recommendations of the independent review and work through a process with all relevant parties thereafter.”
The announcement came after a student protest and heated school meeting last Friday that was attended by about 800 parents and students.
The former captains said a review was unnecessary and would not serve the best interests of the school community. They questioned whether it would be conducted impartially.
“In the above circumstances we no longer have confidence in the school’s executive leadership,” the captains said.
“In our view, it has shown that it is neither willing nor able to conduct itself in accordance with the school’s core values.”
The email said not all former captains and vice-captains could be reached in time for publishing, and more could add their names to the list of 50.
To protest Mr Brown’s dismissal, year 12 students will be wearing casual clothes on Tuesday and all students will sport brown tape on their wrists.
In a statement on Monday, Mr Lyle said it was clear the school was “experiencing a difficult period and the school’s council and executive is very attuned to this.
“We trust that in opening-up sensible, constructive and respectful discussion with our concerned community, we will be able to work through key matters to move forward,” Mr Lyle said.
Dr Davies said the school had regularly reached out to the boy involved as well as Mr Brown.
“The school takes seriously its duty of care to students, staff and the wider community,” Dr Brown said.
“We appreciate and respect people’s right to air views on this issue and arrangements have been put in place to ensure any potential action taken [on Tuesday] is accommodated and there is a safe environment organised for people involved while the school continues to operate.”
The influential alumni association, Old Boys of Trinity Grammar, is holding a meeting for the school community on Tuesday evening after receiving messages expressing “their concerns regarding clear failures of governance by the School Council and Headmaster”.
More than 5000 people have signed an online petition to reinstate Mr Brown.