New guidelines released on firearms in New Zealand schools

A Palmerston North school that sparked a debate about students holding guns has welcomed the release of guidelines on firearms in schools.

The rules establish when it is appropriate to brings weapons onto school grounds, and who can handle them.

Photos of young students at Whakarongo School holding unloaded assault rifles sparked a debate last year about guns in schools.

It was part of a New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) leadership programme - which Principal Jaco Broodryk defends.

"We don't regret what we've done - it is for the benefit of our students,who were safe at all times."

The new guidelines will ban students from handling weapons during school visits from the NZDF and police - but Mr Broodryk says the controversy has not put the school off working with the NZDF.

"It is probably a shame, but... if that is the way to ensure all students, teachers are safe, we are quite happy to work within that."

The guidelines clearly establish when it's appropriate for schools to have weapons - including sports shooting activities, career days, and firearms safety courses - and during these activities, who can hold the guns.

Firearms safety specialist Nicole McKee says: "It gives them some really basic common-sense guidelines they can and cannot do."

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says he usually doesn't think it's appropriate to have firearms in schools, but recognises there are circumstances where it's okay.

It's for those circumstances the Ministry has released specific guidelines.

Schools that wish to allow firearms for educational purposes can use these rules to create a policy.

Ms McKee says schools have done a good job of keeping students safe without the guidelines.

"They have kept students safe, with no incidents and no safety issues around guns in schools."

But she welcomes the new 'toolkit' to ensure schools are fully aware of the rules.