- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2007

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Members of the Hell family have protested to a Catholic school in Australia after it objected to enrolling their son because of his name.

Officials said the boy has been offered a place at the St. Peter 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 last name. Mr. Hell said he had Austrian heritage and that the name means “bright.”

Mr. 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 changed their minds.

“It just didn’t sit right,” Mr. Hell said yesterday.

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

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 Hell’s claim that the initial enrollment offer had been withdrawn.

Stephen Elder, director of Catholic education, said that 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,” Mr. Elder said. “The school is working with the family in the best interests of the child.”

The statement did not mention Mr. Hell’s claim that the school initially refused to enroll his son using that name.

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