Buck stops with school board, says association

By Trevor Quinn of the Wairarapa Times-Age -
Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

A school board will be responsible should parents succeed in winning costs in a potential legal claim, the New Zealand School Trustees Association says.

Association general manager Ray Newport said the case was quite rare in New Zealand.

Masterton parents who were charged over the truancy of their then 15-year-old daughter's absence from school said they will be seeking legal costs and lost earnings from Kuranui College.

The charges against the couple, who have permanent name suppression to protect their daughter's identity, were dropped last month.

The girl's father said his wife was forced to quit her job because of the stress brought on by the case which led to her having a nervous breakdown.

Mr Newport said school boards were the governors of the school and could be sued in the same way as anybody else.

"If the board are sued then the board are [liable] for any penalties or financial implications," he said.

"If a school gets into trouble then the board would be required to meet the costs."

Mr Newport said the Ministry of Education would only ordinarily get involved in a case if it was likely to have national significance.

"If there was something that could potentially impinge on every board and every school the ministry may decide then that they would become involved in it," he said. "In normal circumstances the board meet the costs which they incur."

Mr Newport said actions brought against school boards were quite rare in New Zealand.

"Boards have been rarely sued by anybody let alone successfully sued," he said.

"Boards are also likely to have insurance to cover actions."

Yesterday Jan Breakwell, chief legal adviser at the Ministry of Education said that she was not aware of any previous actions which have been brought against a school board in New Zealand in relation to a truancy issue.

"I don't know of any similar action which has been taken, I haven't known of any."

Speaking on Tuesday, the girl's father said that he was in discussions with his legal adviser.

He said that while there were still certain aspects of the proceedings to finalise, "full process should be in place by next week".

The girl at the centre of the case is no longer legally required to attend school as she is now 16 years of age.

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