Schools sent reminder regarding distribution of political material

A reminder has been given the rules concerning Catholic schools sending out material related to politics.

This was sparked after a principal from a central North Island Catholic school sent parents a link to information from Family First about the upcoming End of Life Choice Act and Cannibis legalisation referendums.

After widespread media coverage about this, New Zealand Catholic Education Office chief executive Paul Ferris sent out a clarification.

It stated that the principal had not intended to breach any election protocols, but had been given incorrect information as to what could be done.

“In the lead up to the election, there are very strict rules about what state and state-integrated schools can do to influence election results .As a state entity, state-integrated schools cannot encourage the support of a particular political view,” Mr Ferris noted.

“If this was done quite deliberately, then the Electoral Commission would take an interest and action might follow,” he added.

Mr Ferris said he himself had been incorrectly reported as saying that schools could make their own decisions to influence.

“As a general rule principals and boards who manage crown entities should make no comment and give no direction about election issues.”

The situation is slightly different for proprietors of state-integrated schools, though.

“Proprietors are given some rights in the integration legislation to protect and preserve the special character of a school, and they may choose to make and share that view with their communities, provided it is clearly shown to be a proprietor comment and not made by the crown entity,” Mr Ferris stated.

“Integration legislation gives the proprietor right of access to the community to share and define aspects of special character they deem to be important. An example could be a bishop who made comment on the Church’s position in relation to the End of Life Choice Act, or a leader talking about the alignment of policies with the Church’s faith base without speaking for or against a party or candidate.”

But during an election, “this should also be used with discretion”, Mr Ferris added.


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Michael Otto

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