July 10, 2007 in Nation/World

Family, school in Hell of a quarrel

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review
 

MELBOURNE, Australia – The Hell family has protested to a Catholic school in Australia after it objected to enrolling their son because of his name.

Officials said the boy had been offered a place at the St. Peter the Apostle school in the southern city of Melbourne after discussions among the principal, the parish priest and the family over his last name.

But Alex Hell, 45, said he would rather send 5-year-old Max elsewhere because the school balked at taking the boy because of his family name. Hell said he had Austrian heritage and that the name means “bright.”

Hell, a Roman Catholic father of three, said he and his wife initially offered to enroll Max using his mother’s maiden name, Wembridge, but later changed their minds.

“It just didn’t sit right,” Hell said on Tuesday.

He said the school withdrew its offer of enrollment for the boy and only backed down when Hell took his story to the media.

The organization overseeing Catholic schools in Melbourne issued a statement to the media that acknowledged the dispute but did not give details or address Hell’s claim that the initial enrollment offer had been withdrawn.

In the statement, director of Catholic Education Stephen Elder said using the boy’s mother’s name was the parents’ idea to “assist the child in the transition of schools.”

“After discussions between the parish priest and principal, St. Peter the Apostle School has made an offer of enrollment to the student,” Elder said. “The school is working with the family in the best interests of the child.”

It did not mention Hell’s claim that the school had initially refused to enroll his son using that name.


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