Title: Chartering homophobia Credit: Craig Young Comment Wednesday 18th September 2013 - 9:51pm1379497860 Article: 13950 Rights
Charter schools may become a possible liability for the Key administration, unless certain steps are taken. Based on Britain and the United States, charter schools are schools that receive government money for operational purposes but have considerable autonomy when it comes to school management, curriculum, hiring teachers and school conduct policies. This is where problems lie for New Zealand's LGBT communities. Our potential objections might diminish if such school management were entrusted to businesses or other interests which had robust human resource management/equal employment opportunity policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity. Clearly, though, there are other considerations at work here. The Post-Primary Teachers Association and New Zealand Educational Institute are concerned about the potential employment of unregistered teachers in charter schools as well. Based on the United States context, they have also pointed to instances of charter school failure, bankruptcy and closure, which have left vulnerable students without access to convenient adjacent school access. It will be difficult to assess this, given that charter schools are exempt from the Official Information Act. The PPTA have stated that they intend to boycott the five announced charter schools and will no doubt be intensively scrutinising them.  Perhaps predictably, our concerns have centred on the involvement of several fundamentalist churches in tendering for charter school contracts in this context. It is welcome news that Destiny Church has been denied such a contract, given its own past reprehensible track record of homophobia and transphobia, but according to an item in the Post-Primary Teachers Association News (May 2013), there are several other fundamentalist Christian organisations that have tendered for charter school provision. These are Ekalesia Faapoto Kerisiano Samoa Church, the Manukau Christian Charitable Trust, Rise Up Trust, New Zealand Christian Proprietors Trust, Pacific Christian School, Living Way Centre, Little Ark Early Childhood Education and Immanuel Christian Schools - as many as one-third of the potential applicants, in other words. One hopes that there will be appropriate safeguards for LGBT teachers and students in this context.  When it came down to it, though, only three fundamentalist applicants were successful. These were Mangere's "Rise Up Trust" in Mangere, South Auckland, which assuringly states that it will stick to the New Zealand curriculum and only hire registered teachers. Of concern is that one of the board members of the Rise Up Trust is Moko Ngaro, wife to conservative Christian National List MP Alfred Ngaro. The second successful applicant will run a South Auckland Middle School and states that it will be "inclusive," use registered teachers only ... and teach "applied Christian values." Of particular concern is the third successful conservative Christian applicant, the C-ME Mentoring Trust, whose CEO, John Kotoisuva, was a former candidate for the defunct antigay Destiny Party Te Atatu seat, running against then-Labour MP Chris Carter before the latter left Parliament. It will provide trades training. Mr Kotoisuva has stated that he has since left Destiny Church, which ran the Destiny Party. However, it should be noted that these three mean that sixty percent of the first charter school initiatives are run by fundamentalist churches or individuals, although none have stated that they will teach creationist pseudo-science. Certainly, this concerns the Principals Federation chair Philip Harding, who warns that  charter schools will offer "a whole new opportunity for discriminatory practises to flourish" and expressed concern that interest from religious groups in running charter schools had been "significant". However, apart from Mr Kotoisuva's past Destiny Church and Destiny Party affiliations, I could find nothing tangibly antigay online about the current three conservative Christian charter school recipients. One hopes that these new charter schools will be compliant and recognise that (one hopes) they have obligations under the Human Rights Act 1993 and its provisions against sexual orientation discrimination on the basis of goods, services and service provision. These schools had better not have discriminatory charter clauses that ban "promotion of homosexuality", as Pinknews and the British Humanist Association have revealed to be the case in at least three, and possibly as many as forty-five chartered 'faith academies' in England and Wales, including Castle View Enterprise Academy in Sunderland, Colston Girls School in Bristol and Swindon Academy. Concern has also been raised about several "Grace Academies" run by Lord Robert Edmiston, previously a strong fundamentalist opponent of marriage equality in England and Wales, located in Coventry, Solihul and Darlaston.  In New Zealand, backers of charter schools include the Maxim Institute and Colin Craig's Conservative Party fundamentalist party, both of which have antigay track records. In the United Kingdom, the UK Department of Education and Wales' devolved government are conducting investigations.  It remains to be seen whether this policy will survive, given that Labour and the Greens have stated that they intend to repeal it if they win office after the next New Zealand General Election in 2014. Recommended: PPTA News: May 2013: Scott Roberts: "Association of Teachers and Lecturers says free schools will make it harder to fight homophobia" Pinknews: 05.07.2013: Aaron Day: "Free schools reintroduce Section 28 style ban on promotion of gay issues" Pinknews: 17.08.2013: Rise Up Trust, South Auckland Middle School and C-ME Mentoring Trust profiles: Kelvyn Smith "Salvation close at hand":  
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