School fires gay netball coach

BY JO GILBERT
Last updated 05:00 22/07/2010

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A gay netball coach fired from a Christchurch Christian school has gained compensation and an apology.

The 28-year-old man was employed as a girls' netball coach at Middleton Grange School in February, but said he was sacked by the board of trustees after members discovered his sexual orientation.

The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, told The Star newspaper that school principal Richard Vanderpyl said the board had decided the coach's homosexuality was a problem and he could not continue in the role.

The coach complained to the Human Rights Commission about his dismissal from the Riccarton state-integrated school.

Commission spokesman Gilbert Wong said the matter was resolved after mediation between the two parties during the first school term.

Details were confidential. However, it was reported the school was ordered to apologise and pay the man a confidential compensation sum. The board was also told to attend a human rights' awareness course.

The coach declined interviews yesterday.

He told the newspaper his sacking had shocked him and made him feel "so small".

"It's hard enough to go through finding yourself and accepting yourself and being `out' in the first place," he said. "Having to go through discrimination doesn't help."

Former board chairman Andy van Ameyde told The Press last night a confidentiality agreement meant the parties could not speak about the matter. He was chairman at the time, but there was now a new board that "had left it behind".

"In a way it's frustrating we can't say anything, but it's an official process and we respect that," he said.

In a statement, Vanderpyl confirmed the school and the coach had "reached a confidential agreement".

The man was offered his job back, he said, but he had found another coaching job.

"Both parties clearly state that there is an amicable relationship between them," Vanderpyl said.

A former Middleton pupil and netball player, who did not want to be named, said the school had missed out on a great coach.

"He is one of New Zealand's best players and would've given the girls many expert tips and lots of knowledge," the 18-year-old said.

Green Party rainbow issues spokesman and gay rights campaigner Kevin Hague said sexual orientation discrimination was an ignorance and prejudice usually associated with the 1970s and 80s.

Society had moved on, he said.

"The issue here is purely one of `Is he a good netball coach? Did he fulfil the other responsibilities of being a good employee?'

"His sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with his performance in the role."

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Ministry of Education group manager education workforce Fiona McTavish said state and state-integrated schools' boards of trustees were responsible for ensuring they complied with all aspects of employment law, including the Human Rights Act.

In the year to June 2009, 2.5 per cent of the 1405 unlawful discrimination complaints received by the commission were on the grounds of sexual orientation.

- The Press

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