21 Sep 2012

Support floods in for sacked teacher

9:35 pm on 21 September 2012

Dozens of students have left messages of support on the Facebook page of a Whangarei teacher sacked by a Catholic school after he took a public stand on gay rights.

Pompallier College has dismissed science teacher Nigel Studdart, who was suspended on full pay last month.

Many of the comments say Mr Studdart was their favourite teacher and others advocate forming an action group to fight the dismissal.

Mr Studdart helped students stage a peaceful protest after principal Richard Stanton stated his opposition to gay marriage and parenting in a school newsletter.

On his Facebook page, Mr Studdart says he is glad he spoke out, and in all conscience he could not have acted any differently.

He says he will decide next week if he will challenge the decision.

The organisation representing Catholic schools in New Zealand says teachers employed in religious schools do not have to hold the same opinions as their employers but are obliged to uphold them in their work.

Catholic Schools Office chief executive Brother Pat Lynch says he cannot comment specifically on the case, but teachers who accept employment at special character schools do sign agreements to support the proprietor's values.

"You can disagree yourself but you cannot then use the school in terms of a platform to promote something which simply is not supported by the school's ethos, and most people would understand that."

He says the national bishops' body, New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, has stated its objections to same-gender marriage.