High-profile white nationalist represents a position on the New Zealand school board

High-profile white nationalist represents a position on the New Zealand school board

High-profile white nationalist represents a position on the New Zealand school board

A white nationalist convicted of what a judge called “actually a hate crime” against Muslims runs for a seat on the board of a multicultural New Zealand school, raising alarm about the adequacy of the laws governing the organs influential and a debate on whether people with extremist views should be prevented from standing.

Philip Arps, one of nine candidates for five board positions at Christchurch’s Te Aratai College, was jailed for 21 months in 2019 for sharing footage of a white supremacy terror attack on two mosques in the South Island city. He asked a friend to edit the footage by adding the crosshair and a “kill count”.

He has 50 criminal sentences and served 13 prison sentences, but Arps’s candidacy for the school board is legitimate under New Zealand law governing disqualification factors, according to the Education Ministry, and was accepted by the company that voted.

In 2019, a judge said Arps had strong and unrepentant views on the Muslim community and, in fact, had committed a hate crime. The judge said Arps had compared himself to Rudolf Hess, a Nazi leader under Adolf Hitler.

“Your offense glorifies and encourages mass murder under the pretext of religious and racial hatred,” said the judge.

The protest over the Arps run has turned the spotlight on New Zealand’s school board elections, which often attract low turnout and little competition, a far cry from the divisive cultural battlefields seen in the United States. But member bodies three to seven exert significant influence on every part of school life, including curriculum, hiring, uniforms, culture and behavior management, and, more recently, public health and cultural issues that have proved to be the subject of heated discussion. .

The handcuffed man stands in the courtroom next to a police officer

Philip Arps awaiting sentencing in Christchurch District Court in March 2019. Photograph: Mark Mitchell / AP

Richard Edmundson, the principal of Te Aratai College, less than a kilometer from one of the mosques attacked in 2019, told the Guardian that 20% of those eligible – parents and guardians of current students – had voted for the council election. school Monday.

Edmundson declined to comment on Arps’ candidacy, to allow for a fair electoral process. He said he was proud to lead a multicultural school – 63% of the student body is Maori, Pacific or Asian – where the council this year voted to affirm a set of values, suggested by students and staff, of “Manaakitanga [respect and generosity]whanaungatanga [working together]rangatiratanga [self-determination] and turangawae [the place one has a right to stand]”.

The school a pupil can attend in New Zealand is determined by where he or she lives; The candidate’s statement published publicly by Arps states that she has children who are prospective students. Board members do not have to be parents of current students, although many are.

Arps, a trader who previously ran an isolation business that was removed from a review website due to the branding described by a judge as “linked to Nazism”, did not serve his entire 21-month sentence for the distribution of the video of the attack on the mosque. His previous convictions include an accusation of abusive behavior for leaving a box containing a bloody pig’s head outside a mosque in 2016.

Arps filmed the incident, during which he used the phrase “white power”. Her lawyer in 2019 described her client’s views as “nationalist” and the judges spoke of her “profound enmity towards people of Muslim and Jewish faith” and “extreme ideological views”.

“The bosses are worried”

Vaughan Couillault, the president of the Secondary Principals’ Association of New Zealand, said that “practically anyone” could apply for the Aotearoa school boards.

“What’s a little oddity is that a volunteer football coach has to be controlled by the police, but the council as a government organization with a much more influential role does not have to be controlled by the police,” Couillault said. She added that council members generally had much less unsupervised contact with students.

“But it’s probably time to look at the criteria that disqualify you and see if it’s still fit for purpose,” he said.

Arps’ candidacy prompted the government to investigate the issue, not for the first time. New Zealand’s school boards are powerful, autonomous and accountable enough, along with school leaders, that their institutions comply with dozens of laws.

In recent years, the obligations of the schools include the launch of a new curriculum of Aotearoa stories in New Zealand and a legal mandate to reflect Maori customs, knowledge and worldviews.

A major 2019 education report raised concerns that some councils lacked the skills, knowledge or resources to fulfill their growing responsibilities and recommended, among other measures, a national code of conduct for members of the Advice.

At whatever level you measure it … you can see the deterioration of society and the social fabric

Sanjana Hattotuwa

A change in the law in 2020 allowed the government to create one, but Jan Tinetti, the associate education minister, told Radio New Zealand this week that the proposed mandatory standards were still under development.

“I don’t want to rush into a case right now because I don’t want any unwanted consequences to follow,” he said.

It was unclear whether a code could or could be used to select candidates before they were elected; those running for school boards are not required to disclose their views in candidates’ statements and do not declare political affiliations.

Tinetti also requested urgent clarification from officials about the laws governing the eligibility of candidates, which were interpreted as non-disqualifying Arps despite his past prison sentences.

The case of Arps is unique; his name and his views are widely known and he has a documented history of crime. But the cases faced by other schools are not that simple.

Related: The political right is fighting a relentless battle to rewrite the success of the New Zealand pandemic | Morgan Godfery

Te Aratai College is one of hundreds of schools currently appointing new councils across the country. Most did not have to hold a vote as there were candidates equal to or less than the number of places available.

Education groups have expressed concern that single-theme candidates, particularly those opposed to public health measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in schools, may be elected unchallenged or without voters knowing their views. .

Some schools faced a heated conflict over mask and vaccination mandates, and the stress of the pandemic had led to some qualified and longtime members to resign.

“Executives are concerned about parents joining boards who have a specific agenda,” said Cherie Taylor-Patel, president of the New Zealand Federation of Principals. “Often new board members do not understand that it is not up to them to have a say in the day-to-day running of the school.”

She was confident that any challenge could be overcome, but some researchers feared that New Zealand’s school governance models – which presuppose a good faith commitment and a shared understanding of what’s good for students – were ripe for exploitation.

“At whatever level you measure it, in Aotearoa on every metric you can see the deterioration of society and the social fabric of civil relations,” said Sanjana Hattotuwa, a researcher at the Disinformation Project.

He said the unusually high confidence of New Zealanders in their democracy generated a lack of investment in safeguards for it, and school boards were an example of those with extreme views that “test the democratic limits of society.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.