School bars gang dad from camp

By Katee Shanks news@dailypost co nz -
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FATHER AND SON: Skip Taitapanui and his son hope to go to a school camp together. PHOTO/KATEE SHANKS 180614SKIP2
FATHER AND SON: Skip Taitapanui and his son hope to go to a school camp together. PHOTO/KATEE SHANKS 180614SKIP2

A Whakatane gang member is upset he has been told by his son's school he can no longer be a parent helper at his son's school camp.

Skip Taitapanui said he was told by James Street School he could no longer go to the camp because he was an active gang member.

James Street School principal Norah Schreiber said Mr Taitapanui could complain through the school's processes if he was unhappy, but she would not comment any further about the school's decision.

Mr Taitapanui said he did his best to be a good father and made no bones about parts of his own childhood spent in Child, Youth and Family care after his father died when he was 12.

He is also open when speaking about his gravitation towards a gang at a young age.

"I looked at the gang as a family," Mr Taitapanui said.

"I still do close to three decades later."

But it is his gang involvement that has seen his exclusion from his son's Term 4 camp this year.

In March this year Mr Taitapanui helped at his son's James Street School overnight marae stay.

Following the camp, he was "rapt" to be asked by his son's teacher to be parent help at Camp Hamilton later this year.

After he agreed, a letter was sent home to parents on May 28 announcing Mr Taitapanui and others as camp parents.

Not long after when picking up his son from school, he was called into the principal's office and told he couldn't go to camp because he was an active gang member.

"Removing my beanie, I asked her if it was because of the tattoo on my forehead or because of the colours I wear.

"I told her the tattoo is always covered and I would not be taking any coloured clothing with me, but she still said no. She repeated it was because I am an active gang member.

"I even asked if my son's mother could go instead of me and was told no again."

Gutted, Mr Taitapanui then had to explain to his son why he wasn't going to camp.

"As a dad I want the best for my son and I want to be able to support him in everything he does.

"I also want to take a stand for other dads who are part of gangs and might come up against something like this."

Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said there were comprehensive guidelines to help schools manage events away from school premises, commonly known as education outside the classroom or EOTC.

"There are no ministry regulations schools must follow. All schools have access to the guidelines and develop their own policies and procedures to meet the needs of their own students who take part in EOTC events," Ms Casey said.

Ms Schreiber confirmed she had told Mr Taitapanui he could not go to the camp.

"However, the school has a complaints process that Mr Taitapanui can follow if he is not happy with my decision."

Mr Taitapanui said he would take the matter through the complaints process.

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