Pompallier Catholic Collegeâ€™s Board of Trustees last month fired the popular science teacher because he supported students who protested the principal Richard Stanton's column against marriage equality, in a school newsletter.
Among the five reasons heâ€™s since been given are contribution to a Facebook page against the column, organising student opposition and speaking to the media about the situation.
Studdart is fighting the decision with the support of secondary teachersâ€™ union the PPTA. Heâ€™s still struggling to get his head around the fact that he, in 2012, has been dismissed for expressing a personal opinion.
â€śI find it hard to believe that weâ€™re actually engaged in this battle now,â€ť he says. â€śIt seems madness.â€ť
He tried to engage with the principal, he says, offering to bring in an external mediator right up until the Board meeting where he was sacked. Heâ€™d hoped Stanton could be enlightened.
â€śI think sometimes as the principal of a school you become quite insular and wrapped up in your opinion. I think itâ€™s important to realise the rest of the world out there has different opinions and theyâ€™re changing,â€ť Studdart explains.
It wasnâ€™t a conscious decision, to support the students, but something he explains simply happened naturally. He says the schoolâ€™s own doctrine encourages pupils to think for themselves and be constructive in their debate and opinions. â€śHow can we tell them that theyâ€™re not allowed to hold a contrary opinion and try and shut that opinion down? As a teacher, surely your primary responsibility is to encourage your students to think for themselves.â€ť
On the feedback
â€śThe gay community has been incredibly supportive and incredibly inclusive. And itâ€™s really nice to have that support. I really appreciate it.
â€śI mean obviously I feel really upset that Iâ€™ve lost my job, but I couldnâ€™t have done anything else quite honestly. And every time I get another message it really confirms what I did was the right thing to do.â€ť
When asked about the impact on gay students at the school, and whether itâ€™s a safe environment for them, he is clearly extremely concerned. Not so much about prejudice within the student body, who he says are mostly â€śreally well-balanced and outstanding men and womenâ€ť, but about the message the school is sending.
â€śFar more of a concern to me is a culture which would endorse that sort of prejudice, and that really worries me. Itâ€™s a shocking message, I think, that the school is sending to the community and to the children. And I think the reaction of parents in terms of withdrawing their kids from the school and looking for other schools certainly endorses that.â€ť
The upshot is heâ€™s had several messages from gay students at Pompallier, thanking him for his stance, saying they didnâ€™t realise how much support they had in the school. â€śAnd I think thatâ€™s important. This is not an issue with other students,â€ť he says.
Messages have come from young people outside the school too, one which brought both he and his wife to tears. It was a thank you from a young man who went through the Catholic education system and had an awful time.
Where to from here?
â€śBut hey, thatâ€™s life, Iâ€™ll deal with that next year and see what we can do. But in the meantime I have by no means give up yet. I certainly will not be giving up without a fight.â€ť
In fact he is absolutely confident he can win. â€śIâ€™d be very upset if I didnâ€™t,â€ť he says.
â€śBut we are fighting, I suppose, the Catholic Church here and thatâ€™s a fairly large organisation to take on,â€ť he laughs wryly.
â€śBut surely free speech is something weâ€™re all entitled to - including students and their parents.â€ť