Caution urged over law change for integrated school boards

school boards

A Government move to widen the criteria for co-opting members onto school boards needs a cautious approach.

The proposed changes would see the criteria including members’ genders, sexualities and sexes.

In its submission on the Education and Training Amendment Bill No. 3, the Association of Proprietors of Integrated Schools (APIS) issued a clear warning.

APIS said that any move that might limit an integrated school’s proprietor’s ability “to carry out its legal right and responsibility to maintain and protect special character” should be avoided.

Auckland solicitor Richard McLeod’s submission also advises caution.

“State-integrated religious schools must retain the rights and the freedoms to determine the make-up of their board, in line with their special character and in consultation with their school community, without the pressure and infiltration of government ideologies and of gender activist groups,” he wrote.

“State-integrated religious schools already maintain the care and safety of their students as paramount considerations, in line with the protection and promotion of their special characters.

“There is no justifiable basis for ideologically-driven state intrusions into the affairs of their boards.”

Currently, the current law, selecting board members, must take into account “approximately half the population is male and half female”. Another criterion concerns the character of the school/s or institution/s, or character.

Particular amendments seek to:

  • change the reference to male and female representation to “the genders, sexualities and sexes of the student body of the school, and within the community served by the school”
  • add the “diversity of disabled students at the school and of the school’s disability community” to the Bill.

APIS said APIS has no issue with this language, “provided that it is not mandatory for appointments in those categories to be made” if they don’t represent the school and its community’s special character.

Its submission also said APIS would not support any clause that diminishes the Act’s current integration law provisions.

Implications for school boards

APIS noted an integrated school proprietor can appoint up to four people to its school board.

Additionally, current law says there must be “at least one more elected member than there are co-opted or appointed board members on the board.”

“Accordingly, to co-opt a board member in a state-integrated school, the proprietor must be willing to forego one of their representatives,” the APIS submission stated.

“That is a decision that would need careful thought, and potentially put at risk the maintenance and preservation of special character that provides significant confidence to the proprietor in their role to maintain and preserve special character.”

“Given the role of proprietor’s appointees in a state-integrated school, the criteria in terms of their selection will put the first priority on their ability to fill the role … to support the school board to maintain and preserve the special character …”

“While acknowledging diversity as a worthy principle, any requirement … may be at odds with the beliefs of some of our proprietors and their responsibilities as defined in . . . the current Act”.


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News category: New Zealand, Palmerston.

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