An elite Christchurch private school is investigating after students reported that a teacher tore down posters and verbally abused them for promoting the Black Lives Matter movement.
The students at St Andrew’s College, in Strowan, were raising awareness about the movement last week.
They said they were shocked when a female staff member ripped down posters and stamped on them while swearing at the Year 13 students for their actions.
One of the students, who did not want to be identified, said the posters were put up on Wednesday and began disappearing soon after they were put up.
The student said the group received permission from senior management to put up the posters.
He initially believed other students at the school were responsible for vandalising them.
“Later on, we got reports that a certain teacher had been tearing it down but initially I brushed that to side thinking no teacher would do that.”
The following day, the group of four friends printed out about 100 more posters after their previous work was torn down.
“We decided to print out around 10 more – and this was 10 minutes after putting the initial 100 up,” the student said.
“I went back with two students and we went to the science block in our school and as we were walking up the stairs, my friend happened to place a poster up on the wall and the teacher walked around the corner and basically went berserk at us.”
He said the teacher began swearing at the students.
“She ripped off the poster, stamped on it [and] threw it down the stairs,” the student said.
“We weren’t really able to say anything – not that we really wanted to – we were very, very, shocked, very scared, I went very pale, I was shaking … it was not a fun experience.”
The student said the staff member talked about how she hated the posters, how she thought the students were doing it as a joke, and that they did not know what they were talking about.
“Frankly, we were confused by her messages, these posters were actually made by my friend who is a person of colour, and I’m just trying to amplify their voice around our school community and for us to be put down like that and verbally abused like that was really disheartening.”
In a statement, St Andrew’s College rector Christine Leighton said the school was committed to “treating all people equally and fairly”.
“The behaviour witnessed by students towards the end of last week is under investigation and therefore it would be inappropriate to make any comment while this process is under way,” she said.
Leighton said support had been offered to the students.
She said teachers were provided with a “Living our Values” guide, which included behaviours for inclusivity.
“Staff are expected to role model our five college values – one of which is inclusivity – valuing diversity; embracing different perspectives.”
The student hoped lessons could be learnt from the incident.
“I think a lot more needs to be done on promoting education, specifically on these racial issues that occur in our country, and I think for people of colour, their voices need to be amplified more and schools across the country really need to step up.”