BBC News (July 9, 2007)
An Australian Catholic school is at the centre of an unholy row over claims it refused entry to a five-year-old boy whose surname is Hell. Alex Hell said St Peter the Apostle School, Melbourne, had welcomed his son Max when enrolled under his mother's maiden name, Wembridge. But they baulked when the family had a change of heart over the surname.
School officials say Max now has a place, but Mr Hell claims they changed their minds because of media attention.
He said he would not now be taking up the school's offer.
Mr Hell said he initially decided to enroll Max at the school under his wife's maiden name, to avoid the ridicule he himself had suffered as a schoolboy. The decision won the support of the school's head teacher and parish priest, he said. But at the last minute, he and his wife decided against the name change. Mr Hell claims the priest refused to accept his son as Hell, and was told by the school's head he had "made a rod for your son's back".
"It's Hell. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/diablo.gif
) That's our name, it's our heritage," Mr Hell told The Age newspaper. "It's who he is, and if he wants to change his name at 18 then that's up to him." Mr Hell has been quoted as saying the name is Austrian, and means "bright".
Stephen Elder, director of Catholic education in Victoria state, said the decision to change the name to Wembridge had been 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 enrolment to the student," he said in a statement. "The school is working with the family in the best interests of the child."