Topic: Education

Ministry seeks feedback on guns in schools

By Raniera Harrison
  • Northland

One of Northland's largest secondary schools has been using guns for educational purposes for the last 109 years- but now it's a practice that's come under fire.

"We do have firearms onsite at different times.  This, for me, is about ensuring that they are dealt with safely and consistently," says Principal Karen Gilbert-Smith.

The Ministry of Education and New Zealand School Trustees Association are seeking public feedback on draft guidelines for firearms in schools. 

"This is not about legitimising bringing a gun to school for an unlawful reason.  This is about when firearms are used for lawful reasons, competitive reasons," says Gilbert-Smith.

However, one of the most established kura kaupapa Māori in the Northland region is rejecting the idea.

"We disagree with this.  We do not take into consideration firearms in our school.  We have left that in our history, with the likes of our ancestor, Hongi Hika," says Kahore Anania, on behalf of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Rāwhitiroa.

Officials at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Rāwhitiroa say that they are concerned that firearms could end up in the wrong hands, and an increased possibility of 'copy-cat' shootings as in American schools.

"If Te Aho Matua schools were given the choice, it is our prerogative to care and foster our children.  We would not have that in our schools" says Mr. Anania.

In May, the Sector Reference Group will meet in Wellington to review feedback, draft a summary report, and make any recommended changes to the draft guidelines. 

"I understand it's an emotive topic.  I think what people have to be really clear about is that the guidelines are there not about people bringing a firearm to school on a day-to-day basis. This is not about legitimising bringing guns in to schools" says Gilbert-Smith.

While there are specific guidelines and laws for use and storage of firearms, there are currently no school-specific guidelines for firearms.

Final guidelines will be published in July.