My response to the BOT response

shock at re classes
Pretty close but I'm not that hairy!
shock at re classes
Pretty close but I’m not that hairy!

So yeah. What can you say in response to that?

This blog is part of a story about my experience with religious education in my Daughter’s school. If you missed the start of it, you can find the beginning here.

From: Dave Smyth
Sent: Thursday, 15 October 2015 12:42 p.m.
To: ‘Judy Eagles’

Subject: RE: BOT response to Religious Education proposal

Wow Judy!

That is a pretty poor response focussed on defending past decisions and completely ignores the most important issues I raised. I’ll get back to you.

regards,
Dave Smyth


I thought that was really quite restrained considering how disingenuous the response was. It took me another day of fuming to compose a reply that was suitable for genteel eyes. I quoted from their response and addressed each issue. I sent it to Judy, Dean and Yaron. I’m not sure if anyone else on the board or staff saw it.There was no reply to this email and no one from the school has contacted me since I sent it. I must have a black mark beside my name!

Let me know what you think in the comments section below and then find out what I did next!

Here it is…

From: Dave Smyth [mailto:dave@energise.co.nz]
Sent: Friday, 16 October 2015 1:38 p.m.
To: ‘Judy Eagles’
Cc: ‘Dean Adams’; ‘Yaron’
Subject: RE: BOT response to Religious Education proposal

Hi All,

To say I am extremely disappointed in the total lack of consideration over the issues I’ve raised is an understatement. I gave my proposal and extended the courtesy of an opportunity to discuss these problems in a closed room, so that you could make changes in a way that doesn’t make this a bigger issue than it has to be.

The written response I got indicates a disregard for the mistakes that the board have made over the years in promoting these classes and a desire to sweep the problem under the carpet as quietly as possible.

In reply…

The Education Act states it is up to the Board of Trustees to decide if religious instruction or Bible in Schools takes place.

I stated this myself in my proposal. This is no defence for misleading parents by promoting the class as being “Ministry of Education approved” when it is not and never has been. Also, having the right to teach religion instruction on the premises of a secular school when the school is “closed”, does not justify the way it has been done.

The school enrolment form has a yes/no response to participation when children first attend.

Which parents made decisions on using information provided by you, that is false and misleading.

There is the opportunity to not participate in the programme at any time and this is communicated to the community before the programme begins at the start of each year.

Again, with false information, not informing parents that the classes are not part of the curriculum, that the school is actually closed, and running them inside normal school hours at the start of the school day.

Children not participating are not discriminated against in any way and are some of several groups who do not participate or attend. There is no breach of the human rights act.

I never claimed in either my proposal or follow up email that there was any discrimination. I said that children were segregated based on their parents religious beliefs. I am not sure how you can morally justify imposing any religious belief system on primary school children in a secular school. (When I wrote this response, I had no firm basis for claiming discrimination, but since then, a document has been released by the Ministry of Education showing that they had a legal opinion in 2001 stating that RI Classes were a form of direct discrimination)

NZ Bill of Rights states everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, including the right to hold opinions without interference.

This is irrelevant. Having the right to hold a belief is not the same as the right to evangelise that belief in a public, secular school under false pretences.

We believe the school community are intelligent and experienced enough to know what is involved and make a decision for themselves or ask questions if they want further information.

When I gave my proposal, none of you seemed to know what was involved, so why should the school community? In fact, in a 2012 Official Information Act request to Maungatapere School, it was stated that the school didn’t know what course of religious instruction was being taught.

The Board has looked at what is happening at Red Beach School which is currently before the High Court and believe the outcome of this may define the issue in the future. Until that is resolved the Board has decided to continue with their current stance.

While this is a relevant case, it is not necessary to wait for it’s conclusion to identify obvious problems with our current situation. Nor does it preclude the board from being able to make decisions to rectify past mistakes.

The Bible in Schools programme has been a part of the school for a very long time and up until this time there have been no issues, as any families not wishing to participate have exercised their right not to.

Firstly, how long something has been around is irrelevant to whether or not it is right. I keep being told different things in regard to this statement. At the meeting, I was told that it has been raised and discussed before and I also pointed out in my proposal that in the 2011 and 2014 survey results, several parents stated a preference for the teaching of multiple religions.

We appreciate that you feel passionate in relation to your beliefs but also appreciate there are other members of our school community who feel just as passionate about wanting it to continue and are equally able to justify its inclusion.

Aside from not hearing any objective justification for the classes, this is not about me wanting to impose my beliefs on anyone. Quite the reverse. It is about trying to prevent any religious group from imposing their beliefs on our entire school community. I do not wish to replace the classes with any form of indoctrination. I wish to remove indoctrination altogether.

We believe our community is generally considerate of all points of view and as representatives of our community want to reflect this and not be influenced by our own personal beliefs. The current situation we believe allows for our community to do this.

How do you think evangelising Christian religious faith within a school that is intended to be free of religion is representative of a community that at the 2013 census identified as only 58% Christian?

Dean stated in the meeting we had that he didn’t consider that this was enough of an issue to make any changes to the “status quo”. On that basis, and considering the lack of action from the board, I will escalate the matter further.

regards,
Dave Smyth


 

Let me know what you think in the comments section below and then find out what I did next!

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