The Salisbury School Board of Trustees is thrilled with today’s High Court decision that the Education Minister acted unlawfully regarding its closure, and is calling for her and her Cabinet colleagues to listen to the Court’s ruling.
Justice Dobson today ruled that the Minister was not permitted to close Salisbury School and move its female students to Halswell Residential School by turning Halswell into a co-educational facility; this action was not permitted until Section 146A, clause 4 of the Education Act.
Salisbury Board Chair Helen McDonnell says that the Minister should now listen to the High Court ruling, and retain Salisbury School.
“The Minister has not listened to parents, current or former students, educational professionals and industry experts, so we are hoping she will listen to Justice Dobson,” McDonnell says. “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.”
“Justice Dobson is very critical of the Minister’s judgement and the Ministry’s processes,” she says. “They need to take a hard look at themselves, their level of common-sense and their processes. The Ministry appeared hell bent on making this happen, and did not do their homework, so did not advise the Minister properly.
“Nor did the Minister ask the right questions of her officials,” she says. “If she had asked the right questions and visited us, and genuinely listened to what we had to say, she would not have made a decision to close Salisbury and send our students to a co-educational residential facility.
Today’s judgement included “The Minister’s decision was unlawful in disregarding the prospect of greater risk of sexual or physical abuse to girls who would otherwise reside in a single sex girl’s special needs school.” Justice Dobson also says “As a matter of common sense, the risk of sexual abuse for girls with impaired intellect is likely to increase, the more they are in the company of potential abusers…No great leap in logic is required to recognise the validity of concerns over having boys and girls together for the educational aspects of residential special needs education…Those changes introduce a risk that would not be present in the single sex environment at Salisbury School.”
He also said that “…the Minister’s decision … involves a misapprehension as to the scope of her own powers to take the steps necessary for their enrolment to occur lawfully.”
Helen McDonnell says that the High Court’s decision was clear and concise, and shows that the Minister acted unlawfully and did not take into account girls’ safety.
“The Minister and her Cabinet should take the learned guidance of Justice Dobson and not close Salisbury,” McDonnell says.
“We thank everyone around the country who has supported us, especially the Nelson and Richmond communities – your support has enabled us to give the best Christmas present ever to our students, their families and our staff,” she says. “We have informed parents of the news this evening, and their tears of relief and happiness is testament to why we chose to continue our fight, and take the case to the High Court.”