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Teaching Council considers complaint about Auckland teacher who wore controversial MAGA hat to Black Lives Matter rally

An Auckland Christian school teacher who wore a MAGA hat to Monday's Black Lives Matter Rally in Auckland has publicly apologised for his actions, which saw members of the crowd angrily turn on him.

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Ethan Aloiai posted footage online of people questioning his wearing of the hat, and accusing him of trying to incite anger. Source: Ethan Aloiai

Ethan Aloiai attended the rally in Auckland, which was set up to show solidarity following the death of George Floyd at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis.

Mr Aloiai and another associate wore Make America Great Again hats, popularised by US President Donald Trump, which for many is perceived as a symbol of racist ideologies.

In a video Mr Aloiai posted to Facebook, attendees at the rally can be seen denouncing him for wearing the hat, which was reportedly taken off him and burned.

Mr Aloiai defended his actions in the video, calling the Black Lives Matter movement "toxic and dangerous".

"Firstly - I hate racism - I decry every form of racism, ethnic superiority, all of it - it's abominable to God," Mr Aloiai said.

"The Black Lives Matter movement is a racist movement - they're not concerned with justice, they're not concerned with fairness and equality.

"I wanted to go anyway to see if I could engage with people, exchange ideas - in a society built on the value of free speech I thought that the best opposition to bad ideas was better ideas.

"I was attacked, had my hat stolen from me, I was grabbed by the collar, pushed around - I was very lucky not to get jumped."

The online response to Mr Aloiai's actions has been sharply critical.

COMPLAINTS MADE TO SCHOOL

His employer, Manukau Christian School, has reportedly been receiving numerous complaints, including one from Dr Hinekura Smith of the University of Auckland's Education Faculty.

"He is entitled to his views, views that as an educator and teacher trainer in Aotearoa New Zealand I do not agree with and, I suggest here, might also be questioned as to whether they are culturally appropriate views for a teacher in Aotearoa New Zealand in line with Teaching Council NZ guidelines," Ms Smith wrote.

"What is not in question is the manner in which he chose to express those views - Mr Aloiai consciously chose to wear a MAGA hat to the rally yesterday then proceeded to film the interaction, and reaction that he received from some of those in the crowd.

"It appears that he intentionally set out to incite discord and anger counter to the tone and intention of the rally.

"His actions seem antagonistic and inciting of violence which I will assume are in contrast to the Christian values of your school."

Manukau Christian School Principal Pete Slaney said in a statement that "we are a multicultural Christian School in the middle of South Auckland.

"We do not condone racism in any form - the matter to which you refer is being handled internally."

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The PM says she understands the sentiment, but says rules were in place to protect people's health amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Source: Breakfast

TEACHER APOLOGISES AFTER BACKLASH

Following the backlash, Mr Aloiai today posted a public apology on his Facebook page.

"I would like to issue a sincere apology for the message this communicated to some. I understand that to some people the hat represented a symbol of white supremacy and my wearing of it provoked them in unhelpful ways," he wrote.

"I am sorry that this is the communication that was received by many, and I am sorry for the hurt it caused. I would reiterate strongly that this is not the message I was trying to communicate.

"The hat does not mean to me what it means to many others, as many prominent black figures and celebrities such as Kanye West and Candace Owens regularly wear the same hat.

"I understand that the intended communication and the actual communication were two different things. As a result significant hurt was caused. For this I am deeply sorry."

TEACHING COUNCIL CONSIDERING COMPLAINTS

A spokesperson for the Teaching Council confirmed that it had received a notification about Mr Aloiai's actions.

"We have received notification about concerns regarding Mr Aloiai and his MAGA hat and video post on Facebook," chief executive Lesley Hoskin said.

"We aren't able to comment further on this as we are at the early stages of considering the information we have received.

"All teachers are committed to upholding the Code of Professional Responsibility and Standards for the Teaching Profession, which were crafted with and for the profession.

"These set out the high standards for ethical behaviour that is expected of every teacher.

"All our investigations into allegations or concerns are informed by the Code and Standards and we look into whether a teacher has breached them."

The code includes "promoting inclusive practices", "respecting the diversity of the heritage, language, identity and culture of all learners", and "effectively managing my assumptions and personal beliefs".

The code also requires teachers to commit to "promoting and protecting the principles of human rights, sustainability and social justice".

Teachers can hold personal beliefs and opinions, but must "manage" then while teaching. 

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