A Victorian school whose principal was accused of banning girls from running at sporting events because he believed it could cause them to lose their virginity has been ordered to overhaul its curriculum.
But an investigation commissioned by the state government could not find evidence to substantiate the claim that Al Taqwa college head Omar Hallak had discriminated against female students by not allowing them to participate in a cross country race.
The Age revealed in April that a former teacher had written to education ministers, accusing Mr Hallak from preventing the female primary school cross country team from participating in a 2013 and 2014 district event.
“The principal holds beliefs that if females run excessively, they may ‘lose their virginity’,” the ex-teacher wrote.
“The principal believes that there is scientific evidence to indicate that if girls injure themselves, such as break their leg while playing soccer, it could render them infertile.”
Education Minister James Merlino directed the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority to investigate the claims, which had been backed by former staff and students.
After looking into the matter, the VRQA could not substantiate the allegations but did find gaps in the way health and physical education is delivered for both genders, particularly in year 10.
As a result, the school has been asked to enhance its curriculum, promote the benefits of sport for girls, and will continue to be monitored by authorities.
“The VRQA were unable to substantiate the specific allegations, however, the VRQA has asked the school to strengthen their curriculum to ensure both boys and girls are able to fully participate in health and physical education,” Mr Merlino said.
“The school will communicate directly with parents of the benefits of sport and physical activity for girls, and the VRQA will continue to monitor this.”
Based in the outer western suburb of Truganina, Al Taqwa is Victoria’s largest Islamic school, with about 1950 students. But the investigation into Mr Hallak is not the first time the school has been in the spotlight.
Earlier this year, federal education minister Christopher Pyne asked Mr Hallak for a “please explain” after it was reported that he had told students Islamic State was a plot by Western countries.
Mr Hallak declined to comment, saying he wanted to talk to his lawyer first.
The teacher who made the complaint said she was happy that girls at the school were now able to take part in the same activities enjoyed by students across the state.
“I’m glad things have changed. I just hope the school does not retreat to their former ways.”
The school is now promoting girls and sport on its website, and has uploaded photos of female students taking part in a cross country event.
The complainant said she was disappointed Mr Hallak had got away with his outdated and harmful views about girls and sport.
A parent at the school said an overhaul of the curriculum would not change the way girls were treated.
“What they have in writing does not match up with what happens on the ground.”
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