Four members of Whenuapai School's board of trustees who stood down en masse this week are calling for a government investigation into what occurred at the embattled school.
The remaining school board yesterday asked the Ministry of Education to intervene to help deal with a raft of issues, including alleged sexual abuse and claims of a rapidly declining roll.
It followed revelations in the Herald this week that three complaints about alleged sexual behaviour involving the school last year had been referred by the ministry to police and child protection services.
There were also allegations of an ingrained bullying culture and high staff turnover.
Five members of the eight person board have resigned this year, four of them this week.
A statement by former board chair Kylie Haskins, provided to the Herald today on behalf of the four departing members, said they supported the current principal Raewyn Matthys-Morris and her leadership team.
The school was not failing, or any more financially stretched than other state schools. It's roll was stable, the statement said, and the school continued to have a great community of parents, caregivers and staff.
"The reason we four parents resigned from the board is because we have simply been let down. That let down includes by some in the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand School Trustee Association. We can prove that case."
They called on Education Minister Chris Hipkins to review what had occurred.
"For Minister Hipkins not to order that review will signal to all other parents who put themselves up to help New Zealand schools as trustees that they are putting a target on their backs for any disaffected parent or caregiver.
"In many ways the state education system is in disarray – especially when it comes to handling children who have behavioural problems. Principals and teachers face massive challenges each day – and external pressures from stressed families."
The statement referenced an incident involving the alleged theft of a $29.99 pair of student headphones. The board declined to reimburse a parents, deeming this outside of school policy.
The incident escalated to requests for a tikanga Maori process, a hui starting with a karakia, and eventually lawyers were brought in, the statement said.
"We asked that our lawyer, who we have been required to engage to help us navigate the increasingly legal situation, be present. We did that because the other party's lawyer wrote that her clients would wait to see how the hui went before 'deciding if they would take any further action'.
"At that point, we resigned. Then the media stories appeared. They were not initiated by us, of course, but we honestly believe our reputations have been harmed by those stories.
Enough is enough."
The four former trustees said that "for the record", they were told that a sexual abuse allegation in 2017 had been retracted by the parent.
The board had dealt with complaints when made aware of them, often seeking professional assistance.
The statement said there were legitimate reasons for changes to the school's teaching staff and board chair in recent years, including "personal circumstances".
"We support the current principal and her leadership team whole heartedly and thank them for modernising the school's learning culture. They are doing an amazing job, which is reflected in the pupils' many and wonderful achievements.
"Whenuapai School has always been about community. The four of us love the school and its community and we remain committed to both."
Asked to respond to the statement tonight, Hipkins said: "The Ministry of Education continues to investigate what happened. I will be speaking with them next week to seek more information."
In a statement, police said they were made aware of two alleged incidents involving the school, "but have no reason to believe there was any evidence of anyone being criminally liable.
"In both cases the incidents were reported immediately by the school as expected, and all protocols were followed.
"Police in consultation with [Oranga Tamariki] have ensured that every step had been taken to support those involved.