ACT leader David Seymour says students failed at tikanga after spitting at his feet

The school where David Seymour was spat at on Thursday says the behaviour of some of its students was unacceptable.

The Associate Education Minister was at a Palmerston North high school to speak about attendance when he was approached by protesting students.

Spitting at the feet of a minister of the Crown, students at Freyberg High School on Thursday made their thoughts towards Seymour clear by confronting him with a haka.

"No one really liked him basically," one student said.

"It was quite the event. Everyone was talking about it afterwards and everyone is talking about it now," another student said.

"I reckon the haka was good, everything else was acceptable, except from the spitting," said a third.

Seymour has responded to the incident.

"I don't claim to be an expert in tikanga, but usually you are meant to be a good host to your manuhiri, your guests, and I think one or two students failed at that, so by a te ao Māori lens, they weren't doing a very good job," Seymour said.

However, a student said they were defending their rights against "Pakeha who are trying to take it away". 

Seymour was there to discuss truancy. His proposals could include fining the parents of children repeatedly absent from class.

But it's the students who could be punished. 

Principal Graeme Williams said the behaviour of some students was "totally unacceptable" and that the matter would be managed appropriately through the school's disciplinary process.

When asked whether the students should be disciplined, Seymour said: "I may not be particularly upset about it, but I fully respect the choice of the principal."

Freyberg High School is part of the free school lunches programme which Seymour claims has done little to improve achievement or attendance. He's currently considering reducing its scope and argues there are some inaccuracies out there about his plans.

"They may be getting cut off, and everyone loves the free school lunches. They're pretty good," a student said.

"The kids today face real pressure, torrents of information that isn't quite true," Seymour responded.

"The people posting about it saying we are uncultured, uneducated people, they are the uneducated ones," a student said.