Dismissed gay rights teacher considers legal action

By Paul Harper

Northland teacher Nigel Studdart says he has received 'massive' support. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Northland teacher Nigel Studdart says he has received 'massive' support. Photo / Michael Cunningham

A Northland science teacher who was dismissed after he supported a gay rights protest at the Catholic school is considering legal action.

Nigel Studdart was dismissed from Pompallier Catholic College in Whangarei last month after supporting a demonstration at the school which involved students wearing rainbow ribbons or armbands to show their support for gay marriage.

It came after the school's principal Richard Stanton wrote comments in the school newsletter in August opposing The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, which has passed its first reading in Parliament.

Mr Studdart told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme he will be meeting with the secondary school teachers' union, the PPTA, this week to discuss his options.

"I think there has definitely been a serious injustice done here, an injustice to the students, in terms of the loss of their learning and time that is critical before their NCEA exams, so I'll try and mediate that as much as I can by doing some tutorials for them, but it just doesn't make up for that seven weeks I would have been in the classroom," he said.

Mr Studdart said he would "absolutely" like to return to the school.

"I love those students to bits, they've been absolutely fantastic to me, I have a great relationship with them, I have a great relationship with the rest of the staff. The issue here seems to be the principal and decisions that he made really."

Mr Studdart said he asked Mr Stanton to withdraw his comments in the newsletter the day after he wrote it, but the principal has stood by what he wrote.

"It has offended church leaders, it has offended an awful lot of parents and offended a lot of students."

He said his point with the principal was not about gay marriage, but with gay parents and gay students.

Mr Studdart said he had a good reputation in Whangarei for his teaching and if he did not return to Pompallier he hoped he would be able to teach at another school.

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