Teacher suspended after supporting pro-gay protest

By Mike Dinsdale of The Northern Advocate -
Nigel Studdart, Pompallier School teacher. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Nigel Studdart, Pompallier School teacher. Photo / Michael Cunningham

A teacher at Whangarei's Pompallier Catholic College claims he has been suspended for supporting a student protest against the principal's stance on gay marriage.

Science teacher Nigel Studdart said he was suspended from the college on arrival yesterday morning - the same day some students planned a silent protest against principal Richard Stanton's comments opposing The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill in the school newsletter.

A Facebook page, "Support Gay Rights at Pom" was set up where many pupils expressed outrage at their principal's comments and some planned a protest at the school yesterday, by wearing rainbow ribbons or armbands to show their support for gay marriage.

Mr Studdart said he was told he was being suspended for supporting the protest.

"It was said I breached the school uniform policy by encouraging students to wear a rainbow wristband to support the rights of the gay community," he said.

He said the Facebook page was taken down "so I set it back up again, mainly to moderate the comments that were being made. I was told to leave instantly."

Mr Studdart said he objected to Mr Stanton's assumption "that gay parents were lesser parents" because they were gay.

The suspension, which was for an undetermined period of time, was an attack on free speech and he intended to take his suspension up with his union and the Ministry of Education.

Mr Stanton could not be reached for comment.

The PPTA said it could not comment on individual cases but said employees had protection under law and it would enforce them for its members.

"We will always defend a teacher who risks their employment status by advocating for their students because that is the essence of professionalism" it said in a statement.

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