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Airline policy reflected in society

Published: 7:07AM Wednesday November 30, 2005 Source: RNZ

A primary school headmaster says the policies of Air New Zealand and Qantas not to let men sit next to unaccompanied youngsters on flights is part of an attitude that drives men away from teaching.

The policy came to light after a man seated next to a child was asked to change seats with a woman sitting in another row.

Auckland man Mark Worsley said he was told by a flight attendant from Qantas that the airline's policy stipulated that only women should sit next to unaccompanied children.

A Qantas spokesman confirmed the airline does not allow unaccompanied children to sit next to men and Air New Zealand says it has a similar policy.

The principal of Stratford Primary School, Kelvin Squire, says the policy is part of an attitude that drives men away from teaching.

Squire says the chronic shortage of male teachers can be blamed on a society that automatically questions the motives of men who want to teach children. He says it's ultimately the children who suffer at a time when children need male role models more than ever.

The airlines say their rules reflect the concerns of parents as well as child safety issues. But men's groups says the decision reflects a growing discrimination against the male sex.

Richard Ashton, chief executive of Big Buddy - a charity that matches men as mentors to fatherless children - says such decisions are creating a world which segregates men from children.

Green Party MP Keith Locke says the policy is a clear breach of human rights and presumes that men cannot be trusted.

The acting Human Rights Commissioner says Air New Zealand and Qantas could have a case to answer for unlawful discrimination against men.