Private-school head awaits sentencing after admitting backhanding ‘rude’ student.

A principal at an Auckland private school has admitted slapping one of his students with the back of his hand and says the incident has torn his family apart.

The man - who has interim name suppression until he is sentenced - pleaded guilty to one count of common assault at Waitakere District Court.

He was reluctant to discuss the matter when questioned.

"I'm not giving you nothing, my lawyer told me to say nothing so I'm just doing what he said," the principal said. "It doesn't matter what comment you're looking for ..."

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His lawyer did not return calls yesterday.

The Ministry of Education confirmed the school board had stood down the principal and an acting principal had taken over. The issue had also been reported to the Teachers' Council.

Though the defendant was not keen to talk about the incident, a judge granted the Herald's application to view the summary of facts.

The 14-year-old victim was walking back to class with mates after touch-rugby practice in June when the school van pulled up beside them.

A staff member inside told the students to hurry up and an argument ensued during which the victim was "rude" to the woman.

Shortly after he returned to class to get changed for assembly, the principal entered.

"Without warning [he] hit the victim in the side of the face with the back of his hand," court documents said.

The boy denied swearing at the staff member and the defendant left the room.

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During police interviews, the principal said he hit the victim "out of frustration".

When asked by NZME. whether he had continued as principal after the assault and planned to stay in the role next year, he refused to answer.

"Have you ever been through a situation where your family's been torn apart? If you knew what I was going through you wouldn't be pushing this, man," he said.

Attempts were made to get in touch with board of trustees members but the defendant said they would not return calls.

"No one's going to talk to you," he said.

The grandmother of the victim said the situation was "sad" because the principal's family and that of the victim had once been close.

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"We're just trying to get over that," she said.

"We've tried talking to him but it's not good. I don't know why, I really don't know."

The school at which the incident took place applied to the Ministry of Education to operate as a charter school this year.

It aimed to "provide a caring and supportive environment in which education can take place".

The principal will be sentenced next month, when he could face up to a year in prison.