Melbourne school opens gates to Hell

All hell has broken loose in newspaper headlines around the world over a Melbourne schoolboy, Max Hell, whose name, his father says, may cause him to be bullied and harassed at his Catholic school.

The story, featuring headlines such as "Hell of a name for school" and "Man from 'Hell' furious over Catholic school rejection", appeared in over 150 publications overnight.

According to the Herald Sun - which headlined the story "Row over opening gates to Hell", dad Alex Hell says a priest refused to enrol his son, Max, at the Hoppers Crossing school.

But the school denies taking offence and says an enrolment offer from the end of last term remains on the table.

The boy's parents complained he was being bullied and harassed over his surname at his current school and sought a transfer, the Herald Sun believes.

Mr Hell said he first told the school's principal he was prepared to enrol his child in a prep class under his wife's maiden name to avoid potential ridicule.

But he later changed his mind.

He claims a local priest who was consulted refused to accept the boy under the Hell surname.

The principal told him he had "made a rod for your son's back", Mr Hell said on Southern Cross Broadcasting.

According to The Age, Mr Hell, 45, a self-employed father of three, said he suggested the name change, knowing first-hand the teasing the surname attracted in the Catholic sector.

He said his own schooling at St Margaret Mary's School in Spotswood saw him victimised because of his surname, which in Austria means light or bright. Mr Hell is of Austrian heritage.

The family decided to change Max's surname when moving him from a nearby state school to St Peter Apostle Primary.

"Most kids in primary school probably wouldn't know what hell meant but in the Catholic schools, heaven and hell is an issue," Mr Hell said.

After consulting the parish priest, Fr Greg Bourke, the school's principal, Michael McGrath, agreed and welcomed the name change for the enrolment.

Director of Catholic Education Stephen Elder today said in a statement the child was welcome at the school.

"The issue of a change of surname of the child was an initiative of the parents which they believed would 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."

Row over opening gates to Hell (Herald-Sun, 9/7/07)
What's in a name? For would-be pupil Max Hell, it's been, well, hell (The Age, 10/7/07)
Church says no to Hell (The Age, 9/7/07)
Catholic school gives in over Hell enrolment (ABC News, 9/7/07)
Catholic school closes, then opens, its gates to boy named Hell (International Herald Tribune, 9/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St James the Apostle Parish Hoppers Crossing North (St James Apostle parish, Hoppers Crossing)

Hell is forever, Pope warns (CathNews, 27/3/07)

10 Jul 2007