Five complaints about a Christian college's beliefs on marriage, sexuality and gender diversity have been made to the Ministry of Education in the past two years.
But Bethlehem College's board chair says the school takes its responsibility to provide a caring environment "really seriously" and it has resolved the concerns raised.
Ministry data released under the Official Information Act shows it has received five complaints about Bethlehem College and its beliefs around marriage, gender and sexuality issues between 2019 and 2021.
In the document, the ministry provided a summary of the complaints and how staff responded to each of the issues raised.
It comes after the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend published a story in June in which LGBTQ+ community advocates spoke out against the school asking parents to acknowledge its belief that marriage was between a man and a woman in its Statement of Special Character.
The school removed the point on marriage from the statement later that month after the ministry asked it to.
It was also revealed earlier that the school also had a working document outlining the school's stance on gender which stated that "the biological sex of a person is determined at conception to be male or female and their gender identity should align with their biological sex".
At the time, the school responded that "it's not wise or kind" to support children down a path of experimental hormonal and surgical medical interventions but acknowledged "that questions around gender and identity are really difficult and sensitive for people".
The ministry data showed that on October 12, 2020, Gender Dynamix - an organisation that serves the needs of the gender-diverse community - raised concerns to the ministry about the "human rights" of a child who attended the school.
The Gender Dynamix general operations manager sent the ministry a copy of the letter the school board provided to the child's parent.
In response, the ministry provided the principal and board chair with guidance around obligations under section 127 of the Education and Training Act.
It gave the school resources aimed at "supporting schools to develop policies to promote safety and inclusion for rainbow learners", the OIA stated.
The board was also told to seek advice from the New Zealand School Trustees Association.
In another complaint made on February 3 last year, a parent at the school contacted the ministry with concerns related to their child.
Further details of the complaint were withheld in the OIA to protect the privacy of the child.
In response to this complaint, the ministry provided further information to the principal and board chair of Bethlehem College.
This included relevant Human Rights Commission guidance and the board's primary objectives under section 127 of the Education and Training Act.
Four months later it received a complaint from a parent whose child attended Bethlehem College expressing concern about a working document published by the school called 'Summary of Beliefs Relating to Gender as a School of Special Character'.
The ministry advised it was working with the principal, board and proprietor of Bethlehem College to improve inclusivity for all students.
Information was provided to the parent on state-integrated schools and school boards' primary objectives under the Education and Training Act.
On June 17, a member of the school community copied the ministry into a complaint sent to the principal about the inclusion of point 13 in the school statement of belief, sex education and the treatment of LGBTQ+ students.
The ministry said it advised the complainant schools were required to meet the obligations and provisions set out in the Education and Training Act and it was working with the school to ensure it met those provisions.
At the end of last year, a member of the public called the ministry with concerns about messaging provided to students at a school assembly.
The person was advised by the ministry to contact the school and follow its complaints process.
Tauranga-based organisation Gender Dynamix was approached for comment.
LGBTQ+ advocate Gordy Lockhart, who founded Tauranga Moana group YoubeYou in June 2022, said, in his view, it was concerning the school only decided to remove point 13 from its Statement of Belief after "huge media attention".
He believed it was particularly worrying given one complaint about the statement was made to the ministry last year.
Lockhart said, in his opinion, this suggested the school was ''incredibly unreflective'' of the impact that statement and its stance towards LGBTQ+ students was having.
"They are aware their belief in respect of LGBT community causes harm. My comment, as being a member of society, is why on earth - particularly in an educational environment - would you choose to adopt a belief that hurts people."
Bethlehem board of trustees chair Paul Shakes said he could not go into details about individual cases but the school had "addressed and resolved all concerns raised".
This included any complaints referred from the ministry, he said.
"We take our responsibility to provide a caring learning environment really seriously, and our Education Review Office reports consistently find our Christian character contributes to a strong sense of student wellbeing and very high levels of academic achievement."
He said the school was also working with ERO to find out directly from students how "emotionally and physically safe, caring and inclusive our school environment is".
The initial results were encouraging and he looked forward to sharing them with the school community in the coming weeks, he said.
In response to Lockhart's comments, Shakes said as a Christian school "we hold Christian beliefs, and we believe they're helpful, not harmful".
"Indeed, Christian beliefs underpin the freedoms we enjoy today, including Mr Lockhart's right to freely express his disapproval of those beliefs."
He went on to say while the board did not wish to disappoint Lockhart, "we have not changed any of our beliefs due to media coverage or anything else".
Rather he said the school had reverted to the original statement while it considered how to best communicate beliefs about marriage to the community and prospective families.
"While we don't expect everyone to agree with every Christian belief we hold, we will always listen to people's concerns and address them as best we can," he said.
"We continue to encourage anyone with concerns to address them directly with us, ideally through our complaints process."
Ministry of Education Te Tai Whenua hautū (deputy secretary) Jocelyn Mikaere said all schools had a written complaints policy and advised parents who raise concerns with the agency to follow up with the school in the first instance.
Mikaere said the ministry continued to meet regularly with Bethlehem College, alongside the ERO team.
ERO was currently reviewing Bethlehem College and would report publicly on its findings in due course, she said.