OIA Adventures: NZ School Formals and Homophobia


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Just to clarify, there are other responses, they’re just not included in this post. These are the ones that I thought were interesting, for one reason or another, and are more based around transparency and the Official Information Act process than same-sex dates and after parties.

 

Does anyone remember St Patrick’s College in Wellington? Last year in June a story broke about how a male student, who happened to be gay, wasn’t allowed to bring a male friend (and ex-student) to his school ball/formal. The school said it was a management issue if they allowed ex-students or boys from other schools to attend school events.

Gay pride Tel-Aviv

Official Information Act

Idiot/Savant suggested sending an Official Information Act request to each state and integrated secondary school (private/independent schools aren’t covered under the OIA) asking whether they had a policy on same-sex dates would reveal how widespread this was.

I think I was either sick, or school was closed because of some natural event one day, so that’s what I did. I also included a question about events before and after the ball/formal.

I used the TKI schools database and Google Docs, and sent the request to schools that have year 12/13 students to the email address listed as their contact address.

The OIA technically applies to Board of Trustees, but as principals should be on the BOT, and know about what I was asking, I didn’t mind them replying.

Here’s the email:

Subject: Official Information Act Request – School Ball/Formal

Dear Sir/Madam at [school],

If you hold a school ball or formal could you please answer the following questions? Do you have a policy on same-sex dates? If so, could you please email me a copy of that policy?

In the past, has the school banned same-sex dates from attending the school ball or formal? If so, could you please provide details?

Do you have a policy on parties before/after the school ball or formal? If so, could you please email me a copy of that policy?

This email address is listed as the contact address for this school. If this email has found you in error, please let me know. http://www.justice.govt.nz/publications/global-publications/o/official-information-your-right-to-know/publication/.

Thank you in advance.

Yours faithfully

Matt Taylor

I sent a reminder email to schools that hadn’t replied around the middle of the 20 day response period. Some people didn’t like the part about complaining to the Ombudsmen (which you’ll see below).

Subject: Official Information Act Request – School Ball/Formal Follow-up

Dear Sir/Madam at [school],

I sent you an Official Information Act request on June 15th regarding school balls/formals. Under the Official Information Act, requests must be answered within 20 working days. I have not received a response from you to date. If I don’t receive a reply within 20 working days I can complain to the Ombudsmen. The Ministry of Justice explains the Official Information Act here: http://www.justice.govt.nz/publications/global-publications/o/official-information-your-right-to-know/publication/. For your reference my request is below.

If you hold a school ball or formal could you please answer the following questions?

Do you have a policy on same-sex dates? If so, could you please email me a copy of that policy? In the past, has the school banned same-sex dates from attending the school ball or formal? If so, could you please provide details?

Do you have a policy on parties before/after the school ball or formal? If so, could you please email me a copy of that policy?

Thank you in advance.

Yours faithfully

Matt Taylor

Over the next few weeks I’ll post some lessons learned and the responses I received back from the schools. Many of the requests/schools are before the Ombudsmen (like Idiot/Savant predicted, schools have minimal experience with the OIA [see below]). I’ll post the result of those when I get them.

John Holley from Liston College: “Firstly an apology on the delay beyond the 20 days for you OIA request. This is the first formal OIA request the school has had to deal with in a long time (if ever) so the staff were unsure how to deal with it.” [response to questions was below this]

Below are some interesting responses from some schools.

Spam

Some schools reported not receiving my original email. This might have been because of spam filters. Organizations need to occasionally flick through their spam folders for non-spam content.

Who are you??///???@@@!

Some schools were angry that I didn’t say who I was working for (no one), and exactly why I wanted the information (for the internets). They’re accountable to the people, and their policies and decisions should be transparent. Their response shouldn’t change depending on who is asking for the information and what they want it for (and the OIA doesn’t require people to disclose reasons for requesting information).

In most cases I replied back saying that it was for a blog post, that they weren’t the only school I was asking and that I don’t work for the media. I don’t think it was inappropriate to hold back information (basically hold the data hostage) before I responded to their questions, or complied with some extra request (like sending them a letter, sending them ID, phoning them etc.), which some schools did. I think this could be interpreted as their fear of the media. Some schools asked for more information about me and responded to the questions in the same email, which was fine.

Some of the schools below did eventually respond to the questions.

Steve Saville from Alfriston College: “Could you please identify yourself/organisation and explain why you are gathering information.”

Penny Mossman from Amuri Area School: “I/we have not received any previous email from your organisation. I do not like the threatening tone of your email [the second one, with the bit about the Ombudsman) and I will not respond to requests from any organisation that has not made itself personally known to us or one that we have no idea who they are.”

Tanya Phillips from Aranui High School: “Can you supply some information for us on this please;

What organisation do you represent?
What is this information being used for?
Where will this information be published?

As soon as we get that information, I will be more than happy to answer your questions.”

‘Admin’ from Baradene College: “Please send your formal request to our Board Chair:  Mr Edmund Lawler, Chairman of the Baradene Board of Trustees, c/o Baradene College, Private Bag 28906, Remuera, Auckland, 1541.  This will need to be on an official letterhead making your request explicit.”

Mason Stretch from Cromwell College: “Please provide our Board with some background to your request.”

Allan Vester from Edgewater College: “I am not sure about the Official Information Act request? Is this actually an official request or was the header there to get my attention.

I would be happy to answer your questions if I had some understanding of why you want the information?

Just one point on policies. There seems to be some idea that schools have policies for everything “Policy on Student parking” Policy on Towing Away Student Cars” etc.

The actual policies that schools must have as prescribed by the Education Act is actually quite small eg a Policy on Protected Disclosure is a requirement.

I think what you will find is that when people talk about policies they are actually talking about the commonly accepted procedures that the school applies in certain situations? [This is a very good point, I should have probably included procedures and practices in the wording of the emails]

If it is the school ball you are interested in then we will have procedures/ rules about which students or other persons are able to attend the ball, the time they must be at the Ball by, the standard of behaviour required etc but there is no policy on those.”

Murray Burton from Elim Christian College: “In accordance with section 9 (2) (k) of the Official information Act, we respectfully decline your request due to the following.

We at this stage have no information regarding the following:

Who is asking for the information, who they represent, their background etc…
For what purpose is this information requested
What part of society is represented
On what basis do you think your request is covered by the Act

Due to all these unknowns we regretfully feel that your request is of a nature that was not intended as part of the Purpose of this Act. “”

My reply:

“Thanks for your reply. I’ve identified myself as Matt Taylor and I’m not representing an organization.

The Official Information Act doesn’t require me to provide background or extra details on why I’m requesting the information.

I’m not sure what you mean by the society question.

The Official Information Act actually applies to your Board of Trustees, so if you’re not comfortable answering the questions please forward this request to your board’s chair.”

Murray: “As a full member of the Board of Trustees I am happy and authorized to work with you concerning your requests.

I would still like to know the following:

Please outline specifically why you wish to receive this information?
What will it be used for?”

My reply: “The Official Information Act doesn’t require me to provide background or extra details on why I’m requesting the information.”

Murray: “Please do not think that we are being uncooperative. We realise we need to comply with the law but we are also wise and discerning concerning our school and the release of information hence email process we are following with you is exactly on that basis.

I am more than happy to release your requested information when I am in receipt of your answers to the following questions

Please outline specifically why you wish to receive this information?
What will it be used for?”

[I didn’t provide the requested information and the request is currently before the Ombudsman.]

Donna Thian from Ellesmere College: “Before I pass this on for reply please identify who you are and why this is being asked of us.”

Jude Conway from Gisborne Girls’ High School: “I acknowledge receipt of your email requesting clarification of Gisborne Girls’ High School’s policy and procedure in respect of same-sex dates at school formals and parties associated with school formals. School management would be agreeable to answer your enquiries, however we ask if you would first advise the reason for your enquiry and the purpose for which you require the information.”

Roger File from Golden Bay High School: “I would be more than happy to provide that information, without an OIA request, but would like to know what you intend doing with it?”

Sandy Begg from Green Bay High School: “If you wish to have a conversation with me, please contact me on 817 8173 ex 216. I have no idea who your organisation is or who you are.”

Graham Robinson from Hamilton Boys’ High School: “Who do you represent and what is your interest? Are you a former student?” [I thought the former student question was interesting.]

Bruce Hart from Heretaunga College: “Our process around the ball is not a secret and I am quite happy to supply you the information you need.  I didn’t respond as I thought your approach lacked common courtesy. All you need do is introduce yourself properly and ask for the information and I would be more than happy to oblige.”

Ron Ballantyne from Hurunui College: [after asking for a copy of the original email] “It might also be nice to know who you are and why you want this information??”

Rosey Mabin from Inglewood High School: “Thank you for both your emails. I do not provide information to people I don’t know. Neither of your emails tells me who you are and for what purpose you require the information. Perhaps you might be courteous to provide that detail.”

My response: “This is for a personal blog post.”

Rosey: “1.      Perhaps I could use the same Act to get you to disclose more information about yourself? You seem particularly cagey in being transparent about your request, yet expect that in return from the respondents.
2.      It is polite to give some background information when requesting information from strangers. You might like to consider doing so in future.
3.      The job of principals is to lead teaching and learning in their schools. Responding to your sort of request is not an effective use of our time.” [response to questions was below this]

Nadia Rose from James Hargest College: “Please send your request to the school in a hard copy with a physical address and we will respond in hard copy to your physical address.”

My response: “Under the Official Information Act, requests aren’t required to be in written/hard copy form. Is there any particular reason why you’d like the request as a hard copy?”

Nadia: [response to questions]

Harold Leask from John Paul II High School: “I do not share such information with unidentified personal. You have provided no information about yourself or your organisation but I’m happy to discuss this issue with the ombudsman.”

Katherine-Mary Molloy from Kaikorai Valley College: “Who are you and under what authority do you ask for this information.”

Debby Peebles from Kaitaia Abundant Life School: “My Principal would like you to send you  request in writing, on letterhead, with the official organisation that you  belong too.”

Tracy O’Brien from Kavanagh College:  “As a matter of policy  the College does not respond to this type of official request via email.  If you could please land mail your request to The Board Chair, Kavanagh College, 340 Rattray St, PO Box 737, Dunedin 9054 this matter will be responded to as soon as possible.  As a matter of courtesy the Board would expect you to identify yourself or the organisation you represent and your interest in this matter.  As N.Z school policies are a matter of public record I do not expect any difficulty in this information being released to you as soon as practicable.”

Kaye Saywell from Makoura College: “The Principal has requested that you please advise who you are and why you want this information.

How did you send your original request – was it by email or post?  I receive the emails addressed to the College office and open the mail addressed to the Principal and have no record of receiving your original request.”

Dee Whitby from Michael Park School: “We are surprised at the tone of your communication and respectfully point out that your initial request does not request the information as per the Official Information Act [the OIA was mentioned in the subject line, and requests for information should be considered under the OIA whether it is mentioned or not. Regardless, the email should have been replied to mentioning the OIA or not] and it is not yet 20 working days. We frequently receive requests for information and given the busy environment of school life we endeavour to respond as soon as we are able.   We also appreciate receiving more information from the sender.” [response to questions was below this]

John Russell from Naenae College: “Please identify yourself and your purposes”

Barbara Hewitt from Napier Girls’ High School: “Our Principal has requested me to find out who the information is for.”

Jenny Ellis from New Plymouth Girls’ High School: “I am happy to consider responding to your request on receipt of a letter from you that provides details of your business, where you can be contacted and how you intend using the information provided. Our school address is: Private Bag 2049, New Plymouth”

Carolyn Matthews from Otahuhu College: “Your enquiry needs to be in writing and addressed to the Principal.  Please allow 20 working days for a response.”

Grant from Paeroa College: “Who are you and why do you want this information?”

Marie Gordon from Palmerston North Girls’ High School: “I am sorry but I have no idea who you are or who you represent.  Any request for information such as this can be done so in writing with suitable identification.” [Does she want a scan of my driver licence? I’m not sure.]

My response: “[what the information is for]

The Official Information Act doesn’t require requests to be in writing, so this email request should be fine. Additionally, there is no requirement for identification to be provided with requests.”

Marie: “I am well aware of the OIA….thank you. I am not in the habit of responding to random e-mails….however, as the answers are quite simple…” [response to questions was below this]

David Matthews from Papakura High School: “I am not willing to provide you with the information you have requested without some more information from you. Who are you? What will the information be used for?”

Vaughan Couillault from Papatoetoe High School: “Feel free to give me a call.”

Wayne Wright from Reefton Area School: “Put the request in writing, sign it and post it. We do not deal with official information through electronic networks. Our physical address is 10 Victory Street Reefton 7830”

My response: “Under the Official Information Act, requests aren’t required to be in written/hard copy form. The information requested shouldn’t contain any sensitive information that could be compromised by being sent over email.”

[what the information is for]

Wayne: [response to questions] ‘I don’t know why you choose to use the “Official Information Act” line. I know some schools are pretty guarded about their activities, however in our case we are very busy people trying to make good things happen for our students. If something is not going to directly affect our kids, we don’t usually do it. As for having things in writing. Your electronic signature doesn’t cut the mustard for us [I didn’t send in a physical signature, so I guess it did], that’s our choice and that is highly appropriate for our setting.’

David Ormandy from Rodney College: “I am more than happy to answer your questions but could you please give me some information about yourself and the purpose of your request.”

Jai Kreyl from Rotorua Girls’ High School: “It is not clear from your email who you represent.  Please provide more information before I forward your e-mail.”

Helen Fouhy from Sacred Heart College (Napier): “Before I answer any questions I would like to know who a little about you including who you represent, what invested interest you have and what will happen to any information you gather.

Answering emails from an unexplained source is not usually something I would do.”

And Shona Warrington from Sacred Heart College (Napier): “If you would like to pursue this any further, please phone Helen Fouhy to make an appointment to see her to discuss this further.”

Rose Sawaya from Sacred Heart Girls’ College (N Plymouth): “I was not impressed by the follow up version with the threat of the Ombudsman.  Nowhere in your correspondence have you explained who you are or what you want the information for.  If you are going to impose threats of this nature you should at least explain yourself.”

‘Southland Girls High School’ from Southland Girls’ High School: “With regard to your request below, we would politely point out that threats are not ever appreciated [underlining theirs], certainly when a courteous reminder would more than likely extract the same information.”

and

Deb Hay from Southland Girls High School: “The principal would like to know the reason for your request, and in what capacity you are asking?”

Mandy Page from St Catherines College (Kilbirnie): “Could you please send a paper copy of your request to

Jane Holloway
Principal
St Catherine’s College
POBox 14076
Kilbirnie
Wellington

Please enclose an address for reply mail”

My response: “Under the Official Information Act, requests aren’t required to be in written/hard copy form. Is there any particular reason why you’d like me to mail the request?

Mandy: “Yes I would like it in writing please, just to make it a formal request. That way we have your signature on the letter in case the BOT want to see any correspondence”

My response: “The Act accepts emailed requests as valid formal requests.”

Mandy: “Yes and it also states that requests are best made in writing and I am requesting this by written letter rather than email. Thank you.

  • Requests are best made in writing, but you can ask for the information in person or by telephone too; and
  • Keep a note of when, how and who you made your request to (and keep a copy of any requests made in writing).”

[The Department of Justice, where the above was quoted from, says requests are best made in writing likely so the information being requested is clear, not because they want people to cut down trees and sign in pen.]

Neal Swindells from St John’s College (Hastings): “I am not prepared to give out information unless I know who I am giving it to. I require a hard copy letter on the letterhead of the organisation who is asking for this information.”

Erik Pedersen (via Val) from St Matthew’s Collegiate (Masterton): “Suggest you ring. 06 370 1731
I will respond”

Philip Keenan from Stratford High School: “I have acouple of queries:
Why do you want this information and who are you?”

Gina Mason from Taihape Area School: “Could you please let me know who you are, who you are working for and the purpose for your questions.”

Hayley Hodson from Tamatea High School: “I sent you a reply the same day that I received your information request [I never received it, quote below suggests it might not have been sent to me] and asked that you please explain where you are from (what company/business) and for what purpose you are gathering this information.”

From: Nicola Ngarewa [principal]
Sent: Tuesday, 28 June 2011 3:02 p.m.
To: Hayley Hodson
Subject: RE: Official Information Act Request – School Ball/Formal Follow-up

Kia ora ra,

 

I was unsure as the purpose and intent of this email and mistakingly deleted it.

Answers as requested below

Alan Jay Mokoro Gillett from Te Wharekura o Te Rau Aroha: “I am a little reluctant to respond to this email – I am not too sure who you are?  Are you from the Ministry of Education?  I am ready to send this information to the Hamilton branch to follow up. You do not have any contact details – and this could be a hoax email.  So I would prefer that you send me an explanation of who you are, and a phone number, so that I can discuss this issue with you, cordially.”

Hinematua Gillett [same person?]: “Thank you for sending me details regarding your process, but I am not sure whether you are an appropriate person for me to communicate with.  My school is a Kura Aho Matua Wharekura, why should I provide you with information regarding our policies?  I have not been instructed by the Council to do this.  Please explain why I should provide you with these details, otherwise I will not be able to.”

‘Office’ from TKKM o Ngati Kahungunu Ki Heretaunga: “KO WAI KOE ???” [Another school replied to the whole request in Māori, which wasn’t helpful.]

Chris England from Tongariro School: “However so I can provide you with information that more fully answers your needs, could you please give me a little bit of background as to why you require the information, and how it is to be used?”

Kristine Mclachlan from Waimate High School: “Before I answer any questions on behalf of my school I would like you to know that we have not recieved any Official Information Request. We do not respond to threats made and I would like more information about why these questions are being asked. Who are you representing and what do you need the information for?”

Alison Gernhoefer from Westlake Girls’ High School: “I have no difficulty with the information that you require, but I would like to know your credentials and what organisation you represent please.”

Debra Ronke from Woodford House: “We did not reply to your email as you did not introduce yourself or indicate in any way why you wanted the information.  I assumed that the email was spam and deleted it.  I certainly do not reply to random emails without more information. We would be happy to assist you with your information; however, it would be appropriate if you could explain who you are and what organisation you are from.  You are welcome to call me on the number listed below”

Gatekeepers

Correspondence between administration staff and senior management was occasionally forwarded on to me with replies. This correspondence often showed a lack of understanding around the Official Information Act. Here’s an example from Aurora College:

From: Annette Little
Sent: Thursday, 16 June 2011 12:41 p.m.
To: Robyn Hickman
Subject: FW: Official Information Act Request – School Ball/Formal

 

Not sure about this one Robyn – delete if you want to.

Annette

Costs

St Patrick’s College (Silverstream), [correction: not the St Patrick’s that started this], was the only school that requested costs to process the request. Because of the simple nature of the request, no other school asking for costs and their unwillingness to break down the costs for me it seems like they are trying to be difficult and hope that I will lose interest in the request, instead of asking for money because processing the request will cost them money.

Chrissy Fage from St Patrick’s College (Silverstream): “Their is an administration charge of $25 for the secreterial work required in answering this request. On receipt of this cheque, made payable to St Patrick’s College Board of Trustees we will respond to your request.”

Some schools liked making stuff up about the OIA

Denis Slowley from Bayfield High School: “Please note all Official Information Act Requests must be in writing [email is fine] quoting the date of the Act [the Act doesn’t need to be mentioned at all], the purpose of your request [reasons aren’t required] and the specific policies by name [questions are fine]. Such requests cannot be in the form of a fishing question as this one is [see below]” [response to questions was below this]

The Ombudsman explains “fishing expeditions” (pdf) (mirror):

“The fact that a request is for a large amount of information does not of itself mean that the request lacks due particularity. The term “fishing expedition” appears to have received general recognition in the vocabulary of those concerned with making decisions on requests for information. It should be clearly understood that this term is not recognised in the Act as a withholding reason. If the information requested meets the test of due particularity it cannot be refused simply on the basis that it is considered to be a fishing expedition. The request must be given proper consideration under the Act.”

Tim O’Connor from Palmerston North Boys’ High School: “If you want information from anyone I suggest you write specific requests rather than generic ones that are sent out randomly hoping for responses.  You are welcome to complain the Ombudsman and I welcome a response as there are protocols around OIA requests [send in a question?] and you didn’t meet them in your initial e mail.  I can’t say I find your approach amiable or holding any pertinance.” [response to questions was below this]

Copyright

David Olivier from St Peter’s College (Palmerston North): “A Reminder about the Procedure remaining the intellectual property of the College and not for reproduction for purposes other than laid out under the Official Information Act.”

This is an interesting statement.

Considering anyone could request the same document from St Peter’s College, I’m going to link to it here (pdf).

Who are you working for??//@@

Terehia Channings from Turakina Māori Girls’ College: “Firstly, please be informed that we have never at any time received an e-mail from you regarding school balls/formals etc…If you insist that you have, then please forward a copy of that e-mail that you sent. All e-mail that are sent to the office e-mail address are received by my PA and she does not recall receiving any such material. Upon receipt of a copy of your e-mail supposedly sent on the 15th June, I will then respond to your Official Information Act Request.”

From: TMGC Office [mailto:office [at] tmgc.school.nz]
Sent: Tuesday, 28 June 2011 4:31 p.m.
To: Terehia
Subject: FW: Official Information Act Request – School Ball/Formal Follow-up

 

This is the first time I have seen this email??

My response: “Thanks for your reply. The message was possibly intercepted by a spam filter on your end. I could send you a screenshot of the mail merge screen where it says that it sent okay, but that could of course be forged, you seem suspicious of whether I sent the original email. It seems a moot point to debate whether you received the email or not.”

Terehia: “Of course I am going to challenge your e-mail to us as a school due to the fact that you state that you have not received a response from us from your first e-mail, which we did not receive. Secondly, you point out that you can complain to the Ombudsmen if I don’t reply within twenty working days to this e-mail. Please refrain from insinuating that we do not fulfil our legal obligations as a school or myself, as a Principal. I do not appreciate such a demand [replying to three questions!!] being placed on us as school when we did not receive your e-mail on the 15th June. As you know, emails sent can be tracked. We have not found anything that has come from you on the 15th June. Your response to my e-mail would have been acceptable had you just concluded by ending your comments with the mail merge screen declaring that the message was sent. To continue by accusing me of being suspicious [the word supposedly was mentioned] and making the comment of a “moot point to debate” I find offensive. Please send me details of your Manager or Manageress as I would like to take this further. We will respond to the Official Information Act Request at our earliest convenience. I am aware of the timeframe.”

My response: “This is for a personal blog post, I’m not working under a manager.”

Terehia: “Please explain then why we are obligated as a school to complete the survey for a personal blog post. Please forward the documentation that clearly states our obligation as a school.”

My response: “Because of the Official Information Act.”

Terehia: “Please send me the contact details of another person, preferably in a Management position, that I can speak to with regards to your e-mails and the Official Information Act. I just find your approach and manner somewhat rude and disrespectful. I do not believe that you will be the only person collating this information from schools in the country and surely there is a person, a committee or a cluster that you are responsible to.”

My response: “Please forward my request to your Board of Trustee’s chair as the Act applies to the Board.”

Terehia: “That’s fine, I can do that however; I would still like to speak to someone that also collates this information from schools. A person in Management will be great.”

My response: “It really is just me.”

Terehia: “There is no-one that you are responsible to?”

My response: “No”

Terehia: “Indeed!”

I get banned from emailing a school

Jenny Gellen from Waitara High School: “In future, please don’t conact me regarding such matters”

I replied with “Sorry?”, but never got a response from Jenny.

Being difficult/a dick

Rob Sturch from Hastings Boys’ High school: [I thought this deserved a screenshot]

Hastings Boys' High School OIA reply

Alan Liddle from Te Puke High School: “Thank you for your enquiry.  Our policies are available to the public on our website www.tepuke.school.nz” [response to same-sex question below]

My response: “Thanks for your reply. What is your policy on after/before ball parties?”

Alan: “As mentioned in my previous email our policies are on our website.  Help yourself.”

My response: “I searched the site for ball policy, with no results.”

Alan: “Well done and therefore your conclusion will be…

Sent from my iPhone”

Do not question Wellington High School!!@@

Dominic Killalea from Wellington High School: “I have been forwarded your email requesting information from us. I find your tone aggressive and rude. I’m not sure if that’s how you want to appear. By my reckoning, this is the 9th working day since your request.” [response to questions was below this] and

Two days later, Prue Kelly from Wellington High School: “[response to questions]

Why don’t you research something that is educationally significant”

My response: ‘The Human Rights Commission receives “a number of complaints every year about pupils not being allowed to bring same-sex partners to school balls.”

You might not think something that is effectively homophobia is a very important issue, but I do.’

Prue: “If you knew anything about us you would know that we began the schools out programme”

One day later, Cathy Drummond forwarded Prue’s response to me again.

WORD YOUR QUESTION BETTER!!@@

Rod Harris from Christian Renewal School: “The reason why I did not respond is that we do not have a school ball.

Your request is that If  [bolding, italicizing, underlining his] you hold a school ball or formal, could you please answer the following questions? The implication is clear that I only needed to respond if we held a school ball. [The question was worded poorly, but I think most organizations reply to emails to confirm they received them, unless they’re purposely ignoring them.]

To have an expectation for me to respond (as the threat of complaint to the ombudsman) makes the assumption that we do hold a ball. Because as a teaching Principal, I have little time for administration, and having the proliferation of e-mails that come into my e-mail from all different types of sources, I do not respond to e-mails unless I have to.

Next time could you please ensure that you phrase your question accurately to solicit the response that you require.”

Tina Johnson from Murchinson Area School: “We don’t hold a school ball – might of course be why we didn’t answer your questions?”

Earthquake guilt trip

Jan Croft or Sue Hume from Avonside Girls’ High: [I’m assuming Sue Hume is the principal who wrote it and Jan forwarded it on] “I would like you to understand that we are rather busy just now.

We are living in the midst of earthquakes. Our school is badly damaged.

Our girls travel across the city to learn at another school.

We are working really hard to re-establish our school in our community for next year. There are many, many difficulties and challenges.

School formals and after parties are not what is at the forefront of our minds.

From my understanding, there are a number of working days left for me to respond to your request.

A more conciliatory and appreciative tone might be more likely to elicit the response that you seek.”

[response to questions was below]

 

More soon.

Image credit: Niv Singer

97 thoughts on “OIA Adventures: NZ School Formals and Homophobia

  1. Un-bloody-believable!!!

    I happen to work with schools, and this does not surprise me.

    Good on you and your efforts A+ for diligence and perseverance

  2. it’s like being in high school again — with “i don’t appreciate your tone” response to any one who appears to understand their rights. We don’t teach kids their rights in schools, because they might use them to question authority.

  3. This is a really fascinating idea! I think it’s great that you’re trying to find out this information, both about their policies regarding school functions and how they actually respond.

    I disagree with the people saying you should have been more polite/included information/whatever. You didn’t have to, and the schools had an obligation to answer your questions regardless of who you are or how you spoke. I didn’t think your letters were rude to begin with, and you were entirely correct to say that you would be able to take it to the Ombudsman.

    I think it’s amazing that so many of the schools didn’t even bother to do two seconds of Googling to see what their obligations were under the OIA, but then had the audacity to sent rude responses! I’d expect much better from school staff.

    Thanks for an interesting read, I’ll be interested to see the rest of the responses!

    1. Thanks

      I’m a bit confused why some schools seemed to have sent off hastily written responses when they were suspicious of who I was (media, angry person) and what the OIA was. This seems exactly like a situation where talking to some people and having a Google would be beneficial for them.

  4. I asked the Principal of “my” school how the school had responded, and he said they sought clarification as to their obligations from the Schools’ Trustee Association who advised them to answer, but as sparsely as possible. And he believes they did just this. Given the response was positive, I’m not sure why they decided not be be a bit more effusive.

    1. Thanks for your comment Garth.

      I’m glad that they had someone they could turn to for advice, though you can tell it really is an association for the Board.

      I guess positive is subjective. I could have been a homophobe and wanted to tell all my friends that have intermediate aged kids that school x tolerates(!!) the gays, so they shouldn’t send their kids there. Of course, you’d hope the school would have the balls (I’m so funny) to not care and would be glad they wouldn’t gain a homophobic parent.

      1. Stretching the boundaries of the benefit of the doubt to their absolute limit, perhaps they are concerned that children with homophobic parents are precisely the children who need supportive schooling, and therefore really want homophobic parents to send their children to their school?

        Silly notion really, but I offer it for completeness.

  5. Hi Matt – I want to start by saying good work on showing the initiative, however there are a few failings in the execution I want to just bring to your attention so you can get better responses.

    Firstly it is the head of the BoT who is responsible for answering these requests – your assumption that ‘because principals should be on the BOT they should know about what I was asking’ is incorrect. I called the ombudsman’s office to clarify this.

    Second, while you do not have a requirement to explain why you are requesting the information you would have gotten a better reception if you had. From the recipients’ point of view you appeared stand-offish, and the schools were trying to protect themselves and their pupils. To the best of their knowledge, you may have been from a homophobic organisation, a journalist looking to create a commotion in the local community or run a ‘SCHOOLS ENCOURAGING GAY DRINKING’ story, or an outraged parent. As it is, you appear to have tried to use the responses you received to tarnish the schools and the education system.

    Finally both the ombudsman’s office and I agree you would have been better off directing these queries to the MoE first and asking specific questions. The ones you have are very open and that is not the purpose of the OIA. If the response you had received from the MoE was insufficient, you could have then contacted the individual schools.

    1. > To the best of their knowledge, you may have been from a homophobic organisation, a journalist looking to create a commotion in the local community or run a ‘SCHOOLS ENCOURAGING GAY DRINKING’ story, or an outraged parent.

      It doesn’t matter, none of those are valid reasons under the Act to refuse a request for information. Full stop, the end.

      > you would have been better off directing these queries to the MoE first and asking specific questions. The ones you have are very open and that is not the purpose of the OIA.

      Matt’s questions are actually pretty specific. Plenty of OIA requests ask for “any and all correspondence, records, notes, proposals, discussion, and documentation relating to subject X” – and that is a valid request too. Schools were quite able to contact the requestor to help clarify the request if it wasn’t clear – note that is different from asking who/what it’s wanted for.

      MoE would have been quite entitled to respond that they don’t have that information (why would they?). I guess if they *wanted* to they could have asked schools on your behalf, but they’d be under no obligation to.

      Rob 🙂

      1. >> To the best of their knowledge, you may have been from a homophobic organisation, a journalist looking to create a commotion in the local community or run a ‘SCHOOLS ENCOURAGING GAY DRINKING’ story, or an outraged parent.

        >It doesn’t matter, none of those are valid reasons under the Act to refuse a request for information. Full stop, the end.

        I totally agree regarding refusal, but principals are very wary of potential bad media as it does affect school enrolments (and so funding etc). So they were perhaps on their guard as to how to frame the response…

        1. Of course, there’s still no reason for any of their replies to be rude. But it does seem that many *did* include the responses within the email asking for clarification.

    2. Firstly it is the head of the BoT who is responsible for answering these requests – your assumption that ‘because principals should be on the BOT they should know about what I was asking’ is incorrect. I called the ombudsman’s office to clarify this.

      Sure. But those principals have a clear duty, under s13 of the Act, to give assistance (most obviously, by passing it on to the head of the BoT). The responses here suggest that they are not familiar with that statutory duty.

      As for politeness and bredth, my standard OIA request (and I so well over a hundred a year) tends to request all documents on a specific subject, is terse, to the point, and threatens Ombudsman action from the start (“according to the Ombudsman’s online calculator, a response is due by [foo]. If a response is not received by [bar], a complaint will automatically be lodged with the Ombudsman”). I don’t get this sort of reaction. But then, I’m dealing with people who have been trained to deal with OIAs, not school-mooks who have never seen one in their lives and regard requests for information with suspicion.

    3. Thanks for your comment A.

      I didn’t address the emails to anyone in particular, and they were mainly sent to admin/office emails. Schools rarely have a publicly published email for the Board, making the reception desk the practical destination for the emails.

      It should have made its way to the Board chair, yes, but I assumed that what the principals/PAs/whoever replied back with was accurate.

      Because principals should be on the BOT they should know about what I was asking <- I think that's a pretty accurate conclusion to come to. Principals should be familiar with policy and procedures. There's nothing to suggest that the principals that replied didn't consult with the Board chair before replying. In come cases the Board chair replied. Regarding giving reasons: I mentioned in the post that I replied back to the majority of the “who are you?” questions with nice responses. But someone here (forums.nzgames.com/showpost.php?p=1912439) put it nicely: “It's not about being polite, it's ensuring that the “norm” does not become something where those providing information under OIA have more wriggle room out of providing it than the law provides.” It's not required by the law, and OIA requesters shouldn't /encourage/ agencies to expect that information by providing it. There's a lot of things I could have done to get a better reception. I could have called their land phone, I could have sent a letter etc. etc. The point was that the request was valid and wasn't treated as such, and that schools haven't been educated about their responsibilities under the OIA. “From the recipients’ point of view you appeared stand-offish, and the schools were trying to protect themselves and their pupils. … As it is, you appear to have tried to use the responses you received to tarnish the schools and the education system.” They're not doing a very good job of protecting themselves if, in the course of trying to protect themselves (supplying the quoted responses) they tarnished their own reputations. To the best of my knowledge the Ministry of Education doesn't collect this type of information from schools. I'm sure one of the many angry principals would have pointed it out to me if they had supplied information like this to the Ministry. Could you give an example of the questions I should have asked the Ministry first? Also, do you know who you spoke to at the Ombudsman's office?

    4. Interesting comments, A. Who specifically at the MOE could reply to Matt’s questions and what knowledge would any of those people have about school formals, unless they had been associated with a school?
      Matt’s exercise is incredibly valuable. For the past few years I have been working on research looking at secondary school contexts and heteronormativity (where being heterosexual is assumed to be normal and anything else e.g. bisexual, lesbian, trans, gay is deemed abnormal and often treated as such). I have been privileged to speak with many young people who tell me how, prior to their school formal their schools direct them to sign ‘statements’ declaring they are gay, so they can take same sex partners to the school ball. Some of these students have then been referred to their school counsellor. Do the straight kids have to sign anything? Do I even need to answer that?
      The evasiveness of schools to respond in the first instance is understandable. If Matt had provided some introductory information it may have helped pave the way. From a university researcher point of view, we must first gain ethics approval for research, then approach the school with a comprehensive invitation to participate in the research. Sadly, in my field of research which is sexuality even that is often ignored. This in itself speaks volumes.
      Keep at it, Matt, and best of luck. I will follow your progress with close interest!
      Cheers
      Mary-Anne

      1. I don’t think it should matter to whom the request is directed, but if it were directed to the Ministry of Education then would it not just become the MOE’s responsibility to either answer it (which they probably couldn’t on behalf of every school board) or transfer the request to each of the Boards of Trustees?

        If that happened then it might have resulted in more reliable responses just through some informed MOE staff being involved, but it shouldn’t have to, and maybe that’s the point.

        1. I don’t think they’d have to transfer it themselves, just reasonably assist. I’m sure they would find a reason not to transfer 400 requests, and I wouldn’t exactly blame them (except I think this type of information would be useful for the Ministry to collect themselves).

          1. “I don’t think they’d have to transfer it themselves, just reasonably assist. I’m sure they would find a reason not to transfer 400 requests”

            An expert would need to confirm, but as I read the law I don’t believe you’re correct in this. Section 14 of the OIA, regarding transfers, seems clear to me.

            It states that when information is not held by the receiving department, but when it’s believed that the request is more closely connected to another OIA-subject organisation, then it must be promptly transferred, and definitely transferred within 10 working days, and the requester must be informed that this has occurred. It doesn’t specify transferring to multiple entities, but I know from my own past experience that OIAs were often transferred to several different places in parallel.

            It might still take a little of someone’s time, but I’d easily believe that the Ministry of Education has a relatively straightforward way of contacting 400 schools at a time. There’s probably a mailing list of all the Board of Trustee Chairs for starters.

  6. 1) I didn’t think either of your emails were rude. They were professional and direct. (You did in fact say please, though I noticed a few people said you didn’t)

    2) It’s fascinating to see the attitudes of the people whose responses you have published – they feel entitled to tell you off! It’s funny to me as a professional working in the private sector. We would never take such a request personally – in a situation where something was taken personally, I’d slag you off to my colleague and then send a professional, impersonal reply.

    3) I thought you showed great restraint and maturity, in refraining from correcting the grammar and spelling of some of the respondents.

    1. I think it’s the structure rather than the ‘please’: letters requiring information from an unknown person usually have some kind of introduction (think of all the Nigerian fraud emails 😀 they have these crazy introductions to make them seem more authentic — though the craziness of them makes it obvious they’re not authentic). Between the structure issue, the bulk email address list, and the header having a reference to an government Act, the general presentation may have had some people thinking it was a prank or scam email. Some of the responses, though, are clearly not polite!

    2. Yet another public servant

      Hi Jesse,

      I don’t think this is a public vs private sector thing. I work in the core public sector where OIA requests are more common, and I’m pretty shocked by the responses. There’s no way we’d ever treat an OIA requester like many of the schools did. Matt’s request was far from being rude (and believe me, some requests do verge on abusive; you answer them the same anyway) and his questions are clearly specified. I’d love to get requests this clear.

      I think one of the other correspondents may be closer to the mark – too much exposure to childish / schoolmarmish behaviour in the workplace can rub off…

      Matt: did St Pat’s Silverstream really respond “Their is an administration charge …”? Shudder.

  7. Good on you, mate.
    The results to your questions will be interesting enough, but I found this just as interesting in seeing how people/institutions react when the “we’ll do nothing and count on the fact that this guy probably can’t be f**ked following this through” response fails. It could almost be an interesting study of how the law conflicts with social conventions too.
    Fascinating on so many levels, young chap!
    Keep up the good work & good luck!

  8. Excellent post! I had no idea that so many schools were either ignorant of the law or so wilful in defying it. Most school staff have little if any training in how to deal with OIA requests, but your post shows how they ought to think—at the VERY least—about the P.R. ramifications of being difficult. More often than not, there’s not even self-interest standing between them and full compliance with the OIA, but they don’t realise that and will assume everyone “out there” is out to get them.

    My only suggestion would be to also post about the schools that got it right the first time. Sort of the flipside of “Name and Shame” —name and praise.

    HUGE kudos to you on a job well done!

    1. I had no idea that so many schools were either ignorant of the law or so wilful in defying it. Most school staff have little if any training in how to deal with OIA requests

      Also noteworthy is that the Official Information Act does not require that a person state their request is being made under the OIA, or even realise that the OIA exists.

      Legally it’s up to the agency to treat all such requests for official information under the OIA, and respond within those rules, irrespective of whether the person requesting the information explicitly stated they were invoking the OIA or not.

      Considering how many schools are acting as if they’ve never seen an OIA request before, which is extremely unlikely, it seems reasonable to wonder how many people have had information withheld illegally in the past. There must have been many requests for information to schools over the years, and it looks as if virtually none of them will have been handled in the way that the OIA requires.

      1. I could understand that they might not have had many requests that state the OIA, but I think you’re right that they will have had requests that they should have considered under the OIA, and based on some of these responses it’s unlikely that happened.

    2. Thanks Arthur.

      I think a lot of information could be found on Google, and it doesn’t seem like a lot of these schools did that. Not to say that some sort of training shouldn’t happen.

      I’ll post the responses from the schools that replied soon.

  9. Philip Berghan-Whyman

    From your selection of responses, I’d guess that many schools need some guidance on their duties regarding the Official Information Act, and on how to respond to a request under it. Hardly anyone with even basic familiarity with the Act would respond in this way.

  10. I used to draft answers to OIA requests, many of which were far ruder, less comprehensible and far more opaque about the identity of the requestee – the responses above indicate to me that the writers were not only unfamiliar and untrained in the process, but also had very little sense in how to deal with the public in the digital age. “Personal blog post” should have triggered an automatic “do I want this to come up when someone googles my name?” warning.

    I suppose that’s what you get when you apply a process intended for central government to its most distant branches. They don’t have half-day training courses in the OIA or office counsel, or set up processes for logging, acknowledging, drafting, checking and responding. But the idea that you need to have some sort of standing to use the Act is the one I think is the most outrageous. They should be telling their students this is how you hold the government to account, yes, even you. I’d have been thrilled to answer a request for info from a high school student.

    Also, manageress? Really?

  11. One point to consider in being asked to explain who you are or where you are from is that you either have to be a New Zealander or in New Zealand (or have business here or something like that) to make an OIA request. So if you’re using a gmail account or something like that, then the school might properly ask for sufficient information to know the OIA applies.

    Not that that schools will know this, but still 🙂

  12. This is very concerning. While it always good to provide supporting information for a request (it can help the agency provide relevant supporting information) but it’s not a legal requirement and certainly no grounds for refusal.

  13. It’s a very interesting post, and thanks for writing about it. It seems as if the Ombudsman might need to send out some clarification of the law to schools in bulk about their responsibilities. I doubt most schools are set up to handle OIA requests.

    “Some schools were angry that I didn’t say who I was working for (no one)”

    For what it’s worth on this small point, I think it is perfectly reasonable for an organisation to ask who you are, if you haven’t already stated it clearly enough for them. Section 12 of the OIA requires that the requestor be a NZ Citizen, resident or otherwise connected in some appropriate way, and writing from a .nz email address doesn’t exactly confirm this. Really it should be left at that, though, and you’d think a statement to confirm should be enough unless there’s very good reason to believe a person’s lying.

  14. Very interesting blog post. Looking forward to part 2.
    Geena – check Matthew’s About page – he’s from Chch himself, so I presume he’s familiar with what’s happening down there 🙂

  15. This is a great question to follow up and I’m glad you’re doing it. (And eager to see the results, particularly from my former girls high school.) But I think some of the commenters here have a good point: both emails lacked the typical courtesies of any business letter, let alone personal letter. This is one reason that the letter could’ve been spammed or deleted automatically.

    I think many of the schools would have replied immediately if you had written a couple of sentences introducing what you were doing and why — high school administrators don’t spend much time learning about the OIA, so it’s not strange that they were suspicious of an email like this. And please don’t call the Avonside GHS response a ‘guilt trip’ — the administration at schools that have been so badly affected by the earthquakes have really had far too much to do in their normal work week. They likely are affected at home as well. A little consideration here would go a long way.

    Still, will be great to hear what you learned.

    1. Thanks for your comment Geena.

      Keeping in mind that throughout this all I’ve learnt how easily emails can be misinterpreted, it did seem like Avonside was offended that I had the nerve to ask them questions when they were in Christchurch and had been through the earthquakes and that I should feel bad about it. I’m in Christchurch too, and in all honesty, didn’t think three questions was too much to ask of them, or any school in Christchurch.

      1. Sorry that I didn’t realise you were also from Christchurch. I guess I was thinking about just how much administration these people do in such little time anyway, and how this extra stress can affect responses. I agree that three questions is completely doable. I just meant that maybe the responder was overwhelmed, and so referenced the quake. Again, I think what you’re doing is really important and I am eager to see the results. I just thought the quake guilt line was maybe not recognising the amount of work these people are doing, which can cause stress and so bad answers, rather than stress and not being able to do it. Apologies for being unclear.

        1. It’s okay. I think it’s important to realize that even though some responses maybe weren’t professional, that everyone’s human and some people might have been having a shitty day.

  16. While I realise that there is no legal requirement for you to explain your request for information, I can’t help but think that you would have gotten a much better response if you had been more forthright in your intentions. I don’t like it when random strangers ask me unsolicited questions either. I take it much better when I have some idea what they are trying to achieve. Also your second email really did sound more agressive than was necessary so I’m not at all surprsied that the responses to that were defensive.

    On top of all of that though, it is disturbing how many schools seem not to understand how the Information Act works.

    I would be very interested to see the results of this survey once it’s completed, my daughter is approaching school ball age and while this question does not appear to be going to affect her directly 😉 it will almost certainly affect some of her friends. I can see my girl being among the protesters!

    1. Thanks for your comment Diana.

      The second email wasn’t intended to be agressive. But I agree that the part about the Ombudsman was worded poorly. However, it is interesting to see what responses that perceived aggressiveness got. I wouldn’t expect some of them from the people running our schools.

      I’m not sure if saying it was for a blog post outright would have made the request seem more legitimate or not. One response asks why they should have to complete a survey for a blog post, when I do explain what it’s for.

      Another reason why I thought it would be interesting to not be so forthcoming with what it was for to see what type of response it would get as just an individual. Clearly I shot myself in the foot talking about the OIA, though, and not saying I was an individual, schools assumed I was hiding what organization I was from.

      Maybe I should have just asked the questions without talking about the OIA at all.

      1. It’s a crying shame that peoples backs are almost automatically raised when you start asking them questions in this area. The tacit implication that if you’re asking about LGBT issues you *must* be preparing to bash them over their answers is sad.
        I’d love to be able to say that I’m sure if you were more open they’d have answered more willingly, but sadly I can’t. I hope they would have been. But I hope all kinds of ridiculous things.

  17. Hi there! I agree with other commenters that this is a fantastic project. I was disappointed that so many of the schools were cagey, however I can understand why they might have been spooked by your tone. You didn’t say anything harsh, but unfortunately written text often comes across as cold and rude if it is not sprinkled with sugar, especially on the internet. Have a go at asking the same questions, but changing the tone of your introduction. Good luck with this! 😀

    1. These responses are perhaps a prime example of how writing can be misinterpreted and that there’s responsibility on both the writer and reader to try to avoid that.

      The first email was sent in one go to all the schools. In hindsight, I should have tested it with a handful of schools first.

  18. I’m not at all surprised that the schools were resistant to your OIA request. I’m a former teacher (left teaching in 1986 or so after 10 years). I was an out lesbian teacher in the late 70s and early 80s in a very unwelcoming environment.

    The first month or two of the school year are particularly busy and I can’t imagine any teacher or administrator welcoming additional work at this time, whether it’s their legal obligation or not. You may have received a better response if you had waited another month or so.

    Your letter was very much to the point, but you didn’t offer anything by way of a please or other socially acceptable softening of your request. Perhaps the law doesn’t require you to disclose anything about yourself or why you’re asking or what you’ll do with the information but there is such a thing as good manners. And good manners go a long way in encouraging people to be co-operative.

    It’s very disappointing to see that this project of yours has got off on the wrong foot. I hope you can find a way to get it back on a good footing.

    Cheers,

    Miraz

    1. Your letter was very much to the point, but you didn’t offer anything by way of a please or other socially acceptable softening of your request.

      This is more a related note, but more than a few government departments which routinely respond to OIA requests have response templates that are equally cold and impersonal. They also do it on a large scale, though. I’d imagine the main reason is to reduce both ambiguity and any chance of accidentally wavering from properly answering the request.

  19. Thanks for this – as a board of trustees member myself (primary school, not sure of our policy on same sex partners, don’t have a school ball) I will be bringing up OIA requests in general with my principal. We don’t have a policy that I’m aware of but this kind of request is entirely legitimate and we will need to make sure the staff are ready to receive one, should it arise.

    Cheers

    Paul

    1. No problem. It’s probably quite important to educate people with access to the general ‘office’ or admin email account. It’s likely at this stage where quite a few of my emails were deleted.

      I’d also be really interested if the Ministry of Education (or anyone really) has attempted to give schools information on the OIA process.

  20. Good on ya!

    Not that you need to under OIA legislation, but see if you can try and get a pro gay rights MP to bring a little more attention and legitimacy to your requests. I’m sure they’d reply sooner if there was that sort of pressure on them.

  21. I’m gobsmacked by this. Some of those responses are so incredibly childish I would’ve thought they were written by primary-aged children, not secondary teachers and staff.

    It’s one thing to not be educated about the OIA, or to not have the time to answer the questions, entirely another thing for them to send these immature, knee-jerk responses.

  22. This is a very interesting project! Thanks for putting in the work.

    Even though it’s not required under the act, I think it would have been nice – just as a common courtesy – to have introduced yourself and explained what you wanted the information for. Unlike government departments, schools don’t normally get requests for stuff like this, so it’s understandable why some staff would have been suspicious and confused.

      1. Hi Matt, as Russell mentioned, I know about the OIA (and more particularly LGOIMA). So am happy to help. (hence my apology when my school didn’t act promptly on your OIA).

        We had an OIA at the start of the week and answered it yesterday and today – so the school is learning 🙂

        The issue is, that there is no real guidance provided to schools and Boards on the OIA. Try and find anything on the Ministry of Ed website! So it is understandable, that unless the request is seen by someone who understands the OIA, that folk act as they do.

        But even organisations who should know better can be obstructive. Auckland Council, for example, follows the old Auckland City approach for LGOIMA and ignores the law in telling folk how you can make a request. I email or tweet my requests 🙂

        The NZ School Trustees Association did send this out in 2010, but the bit on OIA was one paragraph in the midst of a whole lot of other info http://www.nzsta.org.nz/news-and-publications/memos/aall-schools-memos/2010-memos/2010-7/

  23. Nice. I’m doing a similar thing myself, on a smaller scale, sending a request to each school asking for the number of drug related suspensions and stand-downs from all high schools in Canterbury. I’m finding that, although not required under the Act, the best thing to do is to just send a little explanation about how the act functions and what the purpose of your request is.

    If you include a phone number for contacting you for clarification you seem to get better responses as well, because it makes you seem much less like a faceless person; although I did receive one angry phone call from Riccarton High School who seemed offended by their obligations under the OIA.

    Out of interest, how many delay denies did you get? I’m finding that simply not responding at all to the request or acknowledging it in any way is by far the most common response.

    1. Thanks for your reply.

      Are you planning on publishing the results anywhere? Was it the principal you talked to at Riccarton?

      I included a link to information on the Act in the emails, but it wasn’t very visible.

      About 169 schools didn’t answer at all, and two schools basically refused the request.

  24. Enjoyed the post. Not surprised by the responses at all.

    Just to clarify, St Pats (Silverstream) that asked for costs, as a different college completely to St Pats (Town) which was the college that wouldn’t allow the boy to bring another boy.

  25. Not at all surprised to see the response from Hamilton Boys’ High School’s Graham Robinson.

    When I was working with a local Queer youth organisation, we were effectively informed by the principal, that “there were no gay students at HBHS”.

    As a former student, I was quite quick to point this out – we received no response.

    Keep in mind that this was several years ago, so hopefully they release they’re wrong, but based on their response above, I’m not holding my breath.

  26. Good work.

    Do you have overall stats on the number of schools that refused to answer? And how many complaints you’ve had to send off?

    And did you pay St Patrick’s (Silverstream)? If not, and you don’t want to challenge it, I’m happy to fund it.

    1. Thanks.

      About 169 schools didn’t answer at all. About 26 replied either to put conditions on the request, ask for costs in the case of St Pat’s, or didn’t reply to follow up questions. One refused (Elim) and Hastings Boys’ told me to complain to the Ombudsmen, emails above.

      So about 197 are in front of the Ombudsman (including St Pat’s, challenging the costs).

      There were 431 schools in total.

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