Two boys who were banned from competing in the Maadi Cup rowing regatta after riding on the baggage carousel at Auckland Airport were egged on by their teammates.
Details of the incident have been revealed in a court decision to grant an injunction to allow St Bede's College students Jordan Kennedy and Jack Bell to take part in the regatta.
The pair were chucked off the school rowing team for breaching Auckland Airport security on Friday, after their Jetstar carousel ride.
Police and the Aviation Security Service (Avsec) gave the pair formal warnings after the prank, which happened shortly after they arrived from Christchurch.
Crew mates encouraged the boys to jump on the carousel. One boy filmed their antics. The other boys were not punished.
The students had been left unsupervised while the coaches went to pick up a rental van.
The school decided Kennedy and Bell, aged 16 and 17, were in breach of the school's code of conduct and banned them from competing at the Maadi Cup regatta, which started yesterday morning at Lake Karapiro, Hamilton.
But the boys' parents sought an urgent injunction at the High Court in Christchurch to allow their sons to row in the first race at 11.28am yesterday. Justice Rachel Dunningham granted it yesterday morning.
The families said they took legal action because they believed the punishment was disproportionate to the behaviour.
"Jordan and Jack and their families want to make it very clear that the court action undertaken was never intended to justify or excuse their actions at Auckland Airport or to suggest that St Bede's College is not entitled to take appropriate disciplinary action in relation to their behaviour. The only reason for the court action was due to concerns over the school's decision-making process and over whether or not the decision as made was proportionate to the misbehaviour."
Justice Dunningham said she was satisfied there was "at least a serious question" over the issues raised by the parents. "I think it at least seriously arguable that to make the decision based on the emailed report of a head coach who was not present when the incident took place, without interviewing the boys in question or the other participants, and without gathering information on the consequences of the decision to assess whether it was proportionate to the alleged misbehaviour was unfair and in breach of natural justice," she said.
The families had argued the other boys involved in the prank had not been punished, that the school had failed to properly investigate the matter, and had not considered the impact the decision would have on the boys, including preventing them from being considered for selection for New Zealand trials.
But the school said the code of conduct, which the boys and their parents signed, required them to comply with instructions, school rules and societal laws, and warned that any serious breach might lead to them being sent home.
"The school took the view that the incident was a serious matter by reference to it being a breach of Civil Aviation rules," Justice Dunningham said.
"The fact that the boys would miss the opportunity for national selection, and it would potentially hinder the other team members' opportunity for success at the regatta was, from the school's perspective, simply a foreseeable consequence of the boys' behaviour and their breach of the code of conduct that they had agreed to," the judge said.
She decided to grant the injunction because if the boys were banned from competing they "cannot be adequately compensated for the opportunities they have lost" if it was later found the school made the wrong decision.
Kennedy's father, Shane Kennedy, stood down from his role as chairman of the St Bede's Rowing Club yesterday because of his personal link.
The families said they were "very relieved" by the High Court decision.
However, the families said the two teens wanted to "make it clear that they are very remorseful for their actions", and that they "accept that what they did was stupid".
St Bede's Rector Justin Boyle told Radio New Zealand the High Court's decision had the potential to undermine the authority of schools.
"It's taking away the ability of a school to manage their children, in any educational activity outside the classroom."
Mr Boyle said it was his job to apply the schools rules and codes of conduct consistently to all students.
He said he had considered the ramifications of the discipline on the two students, and the possibility they would miss an opportunity for national selection.
"I have to consistently apply the school rules and codes of conducts to any student, no matter what their ability is... whether they're potentially going to represent New Zealand or the under-14 C [team]."
He said the boys committed a crime, and the code of conduct was clear that such a thing would result in a withdrawal for an event such as the Maadi Cup.
He said a "dangerous precedent" had been set.
Why court intervened
Justice Dunningham said the school's decision to ban the boys from racing was debatable as:
• Coach who reported incident not present when it happened
• The two boys and the other participants were not interviewed
• School did not gather information to assess whether punishment was in proportion to alleged misbehaviour