Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Parent complains to human rights watchdog about Bible teaching

Jeff McClintock with some of the correspondence he's had with his daughter's school, Red Beach, over the years over its Bible classes. Photo / NZ Herald
Jeff McClintock with some of the correspondence he's had with his daughter's school, Red Beach, over the years over its Bible classes. Photo / NZ Herald

A parent has taken concerns about religious teaching to the Human Rights Commission in the latest effort to remove the lessons from state school time.

Red Beach School north of Auckland has been in a long-running dispute with parent Jeff McClintock over its Values in Action lessons, which are 30 minutes a week and teach values through Bible stories.

Now Mr McClintock, a member of the Secular Education Network, has laid a complaint with the commission.

A photo of his daughter Violet ran in the Herald in 2012 after he said she was put in a corner alone when she was opted out of the classes.

The classes are still being run and his daughter, 8, and about five others in her class go next door and help younger students with their lessons.

Mr McClintock said that was an improvement, but those students felt excluded. "From her point of view, she's being stood up in front of a class and escorted out."

Mr McClintock said he was laying the complaint now in an effort to improve things before his son Lee, 4, started at Red Beach next year.

It follows similar concerns raised this year by parents with children at St Heliers School. St Heliers later moved the lessons to lunchtime.

Asked if that was an outcome he was hoping for, Mr McClintock said his preference would be to leave religious beliefs out of school.

Principal Julie Hepburn did not return a request for comment yesterday. Values in Action referred questions to the board of trustees.

Board chairman Antony Wentworth said the school was aware of Mr McClintock's desire to remove religion-based teaching. "The board has completed a number of reviews of this programme [including] responding to an inquiry Mr McClintock took to the Chief Ombudsman and the Ministry of Education in 2012."

Feedback suggested Values in Action is well-rounded and supports the Red Beach School vision, he said.

The complaint to the Human Rights Commission was brought to the school's attention on Wednesday.

"We are obviously more than happy to assist the commission if it requires a further review."

God in the classroom

• By law, state schools are secular, but can choose to "close" during school hours for half an hour of religious lessons each week.
• A survey by the Secular Education Network last year found one in three state primary and intermediate schools teaches religious instruction.
• One organisation running Bible lessons in schools has been doing so since 1896.

- NZ Herald

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