Nigel Studdart: Sacked for gay support

By Lindy Laird

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Three weeks after being suspended for speaking out against what he called discriminatory comments by the Pompallier Catholic College principal, science teacher Nigel Studdart has been sacked.

The school board's decision to end his tenure came as no surprise to the teacher, who has many students as well as gay rights groups speaking in support of him.

"There goes the best teacher this school has ever had," one student wrote on a social media site yesterday.

Mr Studdart was formally dismissed at 11.30pm on Tuesday after a four-hour meeting with the board of trustees.

"It is the outcome I was expecting.

"I went into the meeting with plenty of documentation and a well-prepared argument but it was obviously a foregone conclusion," he said.

Yesterday Trish Schoonderwoerd issued a statement on behalf of the Pompallier Catholic College Board of Trustees.

"The Pompallier Catholic College Board of Trustees advises the school community that Nigel Studdart will not be returning to the college as a teacher. We wish him well for the future."

Mr Studdart was surprised the board had appeared to act as one voice, with not even one member showing him support, he said.

A letter from the board stated his teaching practice was not in question.

In it, principal Richard Stanton said Mr Studdart's teaching was "innovative and engaging" and he was highly regarded by his students.

Mr Studdart was stood down in late August; the same day some students planned a silent protest against Mr Stanton's comments in the school newsletter opposing the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill.

Mr Studdart said at the time, and reiterated to the Northern Advocate yesterday, that Mr Stanton's comments had been prejudicial toward gay parents and potentially harmful to gay students or the children of gay people.

Mr Studdart said the principal's inference that gay people were inferior parents was "untenable".

"I'm not sorry I spoke out. I couldn't have done anything else. The issue has led to a lot of debate about homosexuality which is irrelevant, really.

"The issue raised in the school newsletter and what I stood up over was discriminatory and prejudicial and has no rightful place in a decent society," he said.

"I slept well last night [after being officially dismissed] with a clear conscience and I will face my tomorrows in the knowledge that I could not in all conscience have acted any differently."

Reverend Martin Dickson from Saint Paul's Co-operating Church said he was disappointed by the message the school's action sent young people, because being gay no longer meant belonging to a minority.

"It would now take a lot for gay and lesbian students to feel that would be a safe environment to grow up in or be in," Mr Dickson said.

"It's really sad the principal couldn't say what he did and the students also have some useful avenues to express their views."

Mr Studdart is offering private or group tutoring so his students can continue to prepare for NCEA exams next month.

He will be in France for his son's wedding next weekend and will consider his future when he returns, he said.

- Northern Advocate

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