20 Sep 2012

School sacks teacher who defended gay rights

11:32 pm on 20 September 2012

A Catholic school in Whangarei has sacked a teacher who supported students campaigning for gay rights.

Pompallier College in Maunu suspended Nigel Studdart on full pay in August this year after he helped students who were protesting against comments made by the principal about gay parents.

On his Facebook page, Mr Studdart says he was sacked by the board of trustees at its meeting on Tuesday night.

The popular science teacher had supported a peaceful protest by students after principal Richard Stanton set out his views opposing gay marriage and concerns about gay parenting in the school newsletter.

Mr Studdart says he is glad he spoke out. He says he slept well after he was fired and will face the future knowing that he could not in all conscience have acted any differently.

He continued to tutor Pompallier students for their exams throughout his suspension.

Tributes on his Facebook page from parents and students upset at his sacking describe him as the best teacher in the school.

One mother, who asked not to be identified, says Mr Studdart was an excellent teacher and the school community deserves an explanation from the college's board of trustees.

The Whangarei woman says Mr Studdart continued to tutor his exam students outside the school but the board put a stop to that.

PPTA supportive

The secondary teachers' union, the PPTA, says it will continue to represent Mr Studdart if he wants to legally challenge his sacking.

It says the situation is complicated when teachers take up jobs at schools with special character.

The PPTA says that involves a certain amount of commitment to the principles of that special character, as long as that doesn't breach the teacher's human rights, or employment law.