An Auckland school has removed religious education classes
from its school day after complaints from parents.
Religion will now be taught outside school hours for St
Heliers School pupils who choose to attend.
The change followed two complaints to the Human Rights
Commission (HRC) and one official complaint to the school
from parents in the past two months.
The Christian-based lessons discriminated against
non-Christian families and should not be part of a secular
school programme, the parents argued.
St Heliers School issued an email to all parents yesterday
advising of the change.
Roy Warren, one of the parents who complained about the
classes, said he was pleased with the result, and he hoped
other schools would follow suit.
"I think there's a pattern that may well continue, not just
with other schools in our local area which may run the
programme, but hopefully in the wider New Zealand community,"
he told Radio New Zealand this morning.
"I think the schools that continue to run programmes like
this need to take notice and think about what they're doing."
Mr Warren earlier said he had been overwhelmed by the support
shown by other parents of the school, and hoped the result
would give courage to parents in schools throughout the
country to challenge such programmes.
The Secular Education Network said it was "over the moon".
Public relations officer David Hines said he was not
surprised with the result as there were early signs the
school was taking the complaints seriously, and the
protesters were a "very persuasive group".
The Christian classes were taught to Year 1 and 2 pupils for
three terms and involved storytelling, songs, drama and
Children who opted out were sent to other classrooms to work.
Mr Warren and another parent Melissa Muirhead both chose to
keep their children in the classes because they did not want
them to feel isolated from their classmates.
The complaints to the HRC claimed the classes were
discriminatory by excluding children from their friends on
the basis of religious belief for the period of the class,
making the children feel ostracised and different.
The HRC complaint had gone to mediation, and a decision was
not expected for some time.
- Patrice Dougan of APNZ