Christian education worries mum

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 07:54 04/03/2014
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A Palmerston North woman is threatening to take her children's school to the Human Rights Commission over Bible studies lessons that she says have put her 6-year-old in an "awkward" position.

Belinda Lewer says she has followed recommendations made by a Human Rights Commission mediator and made a written complaint to Milson School following the school's announcement in a newsletter last month that it would be starting new "Christian Religious Education" classes.

Ms Lewer has two children at Milson School, and says parents have been told nothing of the new classes aside from taking a survey about religious education last year.

"There's been such a breakdown of information from the school. It's atrocious . . .

"We never found out the results of that survey and all of a sudden it's happening."

The new classes would mean her 6-year-old boy would take part in a Bible study lesson for 30 minutes every Friday morning.

The newsletter says pupils who opted out of the class would be supervised by a teacher and participate in learning based on Milson PRIDE values - positivity and participation, respect and responsibility, integrity and individuality, determination, empathy and excellence.

Board of trustees chairwoman Sarah Spillane said she was not aware Ms Lewer was intending to take her concerns to the Human Rights Commission, and the board was meeting today to discuss her letter of complaint.

Ms Lewer's son won't be attending the class because the teachings "go against my conscience", and she was concerned about the reduced education time, she said.

Her son was upset about the thought of leaving his friends, and that had put her in a "tricky" situation as a parent, she said.

She has asked the school to reconsider having the classes in lesson time, instead making them optional for pupils to take part in before or after school, or during lunch.

She met with school principal Vanessa Pitt on Friday to air her concerns and asked for a response before the classes start, believed to be on March 14.

She is awaiting a response before she makes a formal complaint to the commission, however, she hoped it wouldn't get that far and a resolution could be reached.

"I want this sorted because I want to be able to make arrangements for my son. I'm not going to send him to school that morning, I don't want him to learn double doses of PRIDE values, because he learns enough, but that also means I have to arrange my work life."

Not all the school's classes were taking part, including her older son's class, although he could take part in a before-school lesson where a breakfast was provided.

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She said the lessons were targeted at an age group that could be easily manipulated.

"It's about the children, these kids are being put in awkward positions - at the age of 6, in my case."

Ms Lewer said she knew of other parents with the same concerns, but they had not written to the school yet.

Mrs Pitt did not return calls last night.

- Manawatu Standard

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