Law takes precedence over policy
Under NZ law, parents have a range of rights and responsibilities that they can exercise when raising their children.
The Care of Children Act
A child’s upbringing is primarily the responsibility of their parents and the parents are to be consulted by any other parties involved in that child’s upbringing.
NZ Care of Children Act 2004, s.5 (Principles relating to child’s welfare and best interests) states:
“a child’s care, development, and upbringing should be primarily the responsibility of his or her parents and guardians,” and,
“a child’s care, development, and upbringing should be facilitated by ongoing consultation and co-operation between his or her parents, guardians, and any other person having a role in his or her care under a parenting or guardianship order”.
The Crimes Act 1961
Parents have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect their child from injury.
NZ Crimes Act 1961, Schedule 2, s.152 – Parents of children under the age of 18 have “a legal duty … to take reasonable steps to protect that child from injury.”
The Bill of Rights Act 1990
Every citizen has the right to freedom of belief and freedom of expression.
NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990, s.13 –
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without interference.”
s.14 – “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.”
The Human Rights Act 1993
Discrimination on the grounds of sex is permitted in the interests of public decency, safety, and fairness.
NZ Human Rights Act 1993, s.46 allows for single sex space discrimination, “on the ground of public decency or public safety”. It is established that members of both sexes sometimes need sex-segregated spaces away from the eyes of the public for decency and safety.
Some service providers include males who claim they are women into their women's spaces because they think they have to by law. They are not aware of their obligations to provide services that are safe for women - in some cases it is discriminatory not to provide these services.
The Education and Training Act 2020
Parents have the right to opt their children out of specified parts of the health curriculum related to sexuality.
NZ Education and Training Act 2020, s51(1), "A parent of a student enrolled at a State school may ask the principal in writing to ensure that the student is released from tuition in specified parts of the health curriculum related to sexuality education."
Many parents are surprised to learn that, by law, schools are required to provide a full consultation for parents on sexuality education every two years. This includes providing the curriculum content and adequate opportunity for parents to submit anonymous feedback.
NZ Education and Training Act 2020, s91(1), "The board of a State school must, at least once every 2 years, after consulting the school community, adopt a statement on the delivery of the health curriculum.
S91(2), "The purpose of the consultation is to—(a) inform the school community about the content of the health curriculum; and (b) ascertain the wishes of the school community regarding the way in which the health curriculum should be implemented given the views, beliefs, and customs of the members of that community; and (c) determine, in broad terms, the health education needs of the students at the school."
Here are the legal requirements for schools to consult with parents about the content of relationship and sexuality education and what parents can do if they are dissatisfied with the consultation offered.
The Responsibilities of Boards of Trustees
The stewardship role of Boards of trustees involves planning for, and acting in, the interests of the school and its community. Student learning, wellbeing, achievement, and progress are the board's main concern. (Ref Pg 2, ERO School Trustees Booklet 2017).
The purpose of a school is not to provide a conduit for political or social ideologies. We recommend that Boards of Trustees remove gender politics from schools and focus on respecting the needs of all students and creating an environment of acceptance rather than one of exceptionalism.
Your rights as a parent
When schools endorse social transition (changing name, pronouns and clothing) without explicit parental consent, they are depriving parents of the opportunity to fulfill their responsibilities under the Care of Children Act 2004 to determine the medical treatment of their child.
We have received legal advice that confirms that, under the Education Act, principals are expected to inform parents of any matters that in the principal’s opinion “are preventing or slowing the student’s progress... (or) harming the student’s relationships with teachers or other students.”
However, this expectation is entirely dependent on the principal’s opinion and there is no case law to clarify the extent or limits of the principal’s decision. To read more, click on the link below.
MOE policy does not take heed of the law
In 2022, RGE asked the Ministry of Education and the Teaching Council a series of questions about clashes between their policies and the above laws. We received only the briefest of answers, advising that both organisations had not sought legal advice and therefore could not answer the questions. To read the questions and the inadequate replies click on the link below.