Inferences of racism rejected by school

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 18/03/2014

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A Rudolf Steiner school on the Kapiti Coast has been investigated by the Ministry of Education after parents complained that it was teaching racist theories.

About 14 children and four teachers have left Te Ra Waldorf in Raumati since the allegations first surfaced last year, and a ministry consultant remains at the school to help parents and staff deal with the fallout.

The allegations centre on a philosophy called anthroposophy, founded by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner and considered by many to have racist undertones.

In his writings, about the time of World War I, Steiner made references to some ethnic groups being primitive and savages.

A complaint to Education Minister Hekia Parata last year raised specific concerns about racism at the school.

Te Ra Waldorf principal Andrea Sorger said anthroposophy "underlies the school's special character" but any beliefs or practices around discrimination were not part of the school's teachings.

Such allegations had arisen in Rudolf Steiner schools over the years, but had not been a problem in Kapiti previously.

The Federation of Steiner Schools secretary Mark Thornton said anthroposophy was not taught in the classroom, but many teachers subscribed to its ideas in their personal lives.

The ministry's investigations found no evidence of racist teachings at the school, but the consultant continued to work with parents and the school to deal with any unresolved issues, Sorger said.

As a result of complaints, there was now a greater curriculum focus on the Treaty of Waitangi and te reo, she said.

The allegations had not stacked up, and a final report by the consultant was due later this month, ministry head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said.

The school has issued a statement on its website saying it does not support discrimination and "rejects strongly any historical inferences of racial prejudice".

When children and teachers began leaving, Sorger said she offered exit interviews to discuss their concerns but was declined.

She said the ministry's consultant had spoken to the school's board chairman and herself about the racism allegations.

"A huge amount of work has been done and we have clearly said we don't accept any discriminatory or racist comments or teach them."

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- The Dominion Post

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