A student at Pakuranga College says teachers pushed and dismissed pupils who were listening to a boy read the Bible at lunchtime.
Videos circulating social media claim the student has been expelled and appears to show staff attempting to break up the crowd.
But the school says no expulsion decision has been made and they were simply trying to get students back in class.
Videos show the principal and teachers at Pakuranga College attempting to break up a crowd of students.
“You need to go now,” says one teacher.
Thousands have reacted after videos claimed the student at the centre had been expelled, and student Hannah Upfold claims staff were pushing students.
“I kept saying don’t touch me, please stop touching me, I just want to hear this guy speak and they would just get very irritated that we were saying that.”
Upfold says students weren’t doing anything wrong, they’d voluntarily gathered to listen to a senior student read from the Bible during their lunch break.
In a statement to Newshub, the school says the student who initiated the religious gathering has not been expelled or suspended.
We have rules about attending class, not to impugn free speech, but to ensure students are in class receiving their education.
In response to comments that staff tried to shut down the event during the lunch hour, they did move to wind up the gathering at the warning bell.
But the student at the centre of it says he’s been told he’s suspended until the board makes a decision.
As for the students who stuck by him after the school bell rang?
“It was just to make sure that we could stick together to support the senior student to make sure he would be okay,” Upfold told Newshub.
But that decision will have to wait until the new school term.
Full statement from Principal Michael Williams
“Pakuranga College is aware of misinformation and highly selective footage spreading on social media about an incident at the college yesterday, including speculation that a student was expelled and that staff shut down free speech.”
“This simply isn’t true. The student who instigated the religious gathering has not been expelled or suspended. We did ask that their parents collect them from the college yesterday and will be speaking with them further regarding the matter,” Williams said.
“The gathering initially started during the lunch break but continued into class time. Staff were simply trying to ensure that students attended class, where they were meant to be, amidst a challenging situation. Some students did not take the opportunity to return to class and we will be addressing this truancy when school returns. We have rules about attending class, not to impugn free speech, but to ensure students are in class receiving their education,” the principal added.
“In response to comments that staff tried to shut down the event during the lunch hour, they did move to wind up the gathering at the warning bell. It was raining heavily, and students should have been moving off the field to more sheltered areas and to class at this time.”
“As this occurred on the last day of term, the process for dealing with this incident hasn’t started, and won’t until school resumes. The Principal met with the student and their parents on Thursday afternoon and explained that the incident would be looked at the start of term and that would involve the school reviewing what happened and making a decision about the next step. The Principal assured the family that he would be meeting with them at the start of the term if not sooner to discuss the matter further,” Williams said.
“It was made clear to the family that the incident may lead to disciplinary action and that suspension is a possibility. The Principal explained what a suspension is – in simple terms, that it would be referred to the College Board to make a decision about the student’s future and that it is a serious step and can result in students being expelled.”
“The Principal has spoken with the student’s father again today and reiterated the steps in the process as people were posting incorrect information on social media. At this stage no decision has been made, this will be done when the incident is reviewed.”