School protest muzzled
EDUCATION Department officials have made Coffs Harbour High School remove a banner pleading for sports fields at the Jetty to be saved as open space.
"Schools are not the place to promote particular views," said an Education Department spokesman.
"It is Education Department policy to ensure schools are neutral in the discussion of public issues.
"Issues can be discussed in schools, but we want to ensure they are neutral spaces to do that."
Coffs Harbour resident Peter Rake complained about the banner, which was put up on the building by school students.
Students are also collecting signatures on a petition to present to Coffs Harbour City Council because they fear they will lose their sports grounds under concepts proposed for the development of the harbour.
Concept plans now on public display propose using Jetty Oval and Englands Park for medium and high-density residential development.
Coffs Harbour High School principal Ken Butcher said the school only had one very small playing field behind the Pier Hotel which was used 'to the nth degree' and he understood the school had been using both Jetty Oval and Englands Park every week for school sport for more than 40 years.
He said the all-weather Jetty Oval was particularly useful.
Mr Butcher said he had asked the Education Department to approach the Department of Lands objecting to the proposal and both he and the high school's Parents and Citizens group had written to Coffs Harbour City Council with their concerns.
Mr Butcher said students were able to walk to both venues and if they had to take buses to more distant sports fields, it would cost the school's parents at least $500 a week.
Mr Butcher said the banner was not political and he thought the students had taken a responsible approach to their protest campaign.