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Parata not appealing ruling in Salisbury case

Published: 5:20AM Wednesday December 12, 2012 Source: ONE News/ Fairfax

Education Minister Hekia Parata says she will not appeal the High Court decision on the closure of Salisbury School, after a judge ruled her decision to close the residential girls' school was unlawful.

Earlier Parata said she would take time to consider the advice of the judge, saying: "It's been less than 24 hours I think we have to give due regard to what the judge has said and give a comprehensive response."

But later she had a change of heart, saying she had an hour to decide that "I won't be appealing".

"I think we've been given helpful advice we need to take it and take time to ensure that safety is paramount."

Speaking to ONE News, Parata said she has also asked the Ministry of Education for further advice regarding the ruling, which said the Government's proposal to close Salisbury School in Nelson and move the students to the Halswell Residential College for boys in Christchurch next year contravened New Zealand law.

The Green Party has called for her to step down.

"She has displayed a blatant disregard for the children and doesn't that make her unfit to be a Minister of Education?" co-leader Russel Norman said.

When asked what she thought about calls for her to step down from her post, Parata said she had not heard any such remarks.

"I remain powerfully committed to education for all of our children across New Zealand and I will continue to work hard to achieve that," she said.

And Prime Minister John Key is backing his minister.

"It's always going to be challenging, you're always going to have to break a few eggs to make an omelette," he said.

Helen McDonnell, Salisbury School Board chairperson, is now calling on the minister to meet with them about the future and "relook at the options".

Victory for parents

Parents and the Salisbury School board have vigorously fought against the move to close their school, arguing that sending the girls to a co-ed school would put them at risk of abuse.

Justice Robert Dobson agreed the decision disregarded "the prospect of greater risk of sexual or physical abuse" to the girls if they were sent to a co-ed special needs school.

He said the Government was also wrong to assume girls could be enrolled at Halswell college while it legally remained a single-sex boys' school.

The board had presented Parata with research that showed the girls were seven times more likely to be abused in a co-ed school.

"Through this process, we have lost total confidence in Hekia Parata, and we think it is time that more hard questions are asked of her, and her Ministry's competency," McDonnell earlier said.

"Justice Dobson is very critical of the Minister's judgement and the Ministry's processes."

National has also faced a public backlash over plans to close schools in Canterbury after the earthquakes.

Labour's associate education spokesman, Chris Hipkins, said Parata was "riding roughshod" over due process.

"The High Court ruling today on Salisbury is a victory for the parents' persistence, common sense and proper process. It's also a slap in the face for a minister of the Crown to have their actions ruled unlawful," he said

Salisbury has a roll of 80 students from around New Zealand.

 

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