Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions guidelines - part 2

These Guidelines are designed to assist boards of trustees, principals, and teachers with their legal options and duties and meet their obligations under relevant statutory requirements and are for use in all state and state-integrated schools. Independent schools may also wish to adopt this guide.

The Guidelines comprise:
- Part One: Legal options and duties [PDF, 2.4 MB]
- Part Two: Good practice [PDF, 2.4 MB]

These guidelines replace those published by the Ministry of Education in June 2004 and the 2007 Supplement. The paragraphs have been numbered for ease of use and reference. Cross references to Part II, Good practice are given where relevant.

Licensing Criteria Cover

6. Investigation and interviewing

Students and school staff contribute to the investigation of an incident and the gathering of evidence in a variety of ways. Robust processes for interviewing witnesses and those involved in the incident can strengthen the information-gathering process. To inform your school’s response to student behaviour, it may be helpful to consider the following questions when investigating incidents and interviewing:

  • Investigation in the school
    • It is the role of your school management to investigate incidents of student behaviour following the rules of natural justice. It is important for you to obtain all the facts about the situation so the board can make an informed decision.

      Ask these questions of your school

      How do we know that an incident occurred? Have we gathered all the facts? [Refer Part I: Investigation]

      Have we conducted a fair and thorough investigation and documented all the evidence gathered? Who has investigated the incident? Do we need to determine who our best people are to interview students?

      Note: The decision to exercise a statutory option must be taken by the principal alone and cannot be delegated (though a delegated acting principal may make it in the principal’s absence).

      Was an incident report completed? Do we have an established process for incident reporting and the documentation of incidents? Is this reviewed and updated regularly? Do we inform all teachers and school staff about the process? [Refer Part I: Investigation, Documenting the investigation]

      Note: Any staff member may discuss an incident with the student and give him or her the opportunity to comment. The emphasis here is on the description of the incident and hearing the student’s side of the story rather than seeking an admission.

  • Interviewing students at school
    • To build a true picture of what happened, staff may want to seek an admission from the student. To follow good practice, staff may wish to have another adult present at an interview. This protects staff members from unjust accusations, and could provide a support person for the student.

      Ask these questions of your school

      Where do we hold interviews with students? Are these places appropriate for privacy and safety reasons?

      Note: Natural justice usually requires putting the facts to students and recording responses. Students have the right to be heard. The principal must have confidence in the evidence produced before exercising a statutory option. The principal may not suspend on suspicion and leave the matter to the board to resolve. [Refer Part I: Overview, Fair and flexible, Natural justice]

  • Interviewing and the Police
    • Schools decide when the Police may be called to assist with an incident of student behaviour that has broken the law. Some schools can be reluctant to call the Police. Some communities may see the presence of Police at school as negative. Ongoing relationships between the school and the Police can minimise the fear in the local community and normalise the presence of Police at school.

      Ask these questions of your school

      Do we have an ongoing working relationship with the Police?

      Do we have a plan for managing situations where students are questioned by Police at school? Is our plan clearly communicated to all students, parents and caregivers?

      Note: If the Police are called to the school, they may choose to search students and will use their legal powers eg, Misuse of Drugs Act, as appropriate.

      Note: Offending by children aged 10–13 years (inclusive) and young persons aged 14–16 years (inclusive) is dealt with under the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989. Young people aged 17 years or older who commit offences are dealt with as adults. The Police will be involved.

      Police and social workers visit your school. They work within the realms of their powers and know their roles.

  • Useful links
      • Information and rules about the stand-down, suspension, exclusion and expulsion process
      • Child, Youth and Family has some good tips about talking with children who have disclosed abuse
      • The New Zealand Schools Trustees Association (NZSTA) represents and provides services to boards of trustees across New Zealand. NZSTA provides governance support services, industrial relations and advice free of charge. Boards of trustees can access the NZSTA National Office Trusteeship helpdesk for all matters relating to trusteeship. The Helpdesk is staffed five days a week during office hours, 8:00am to 5:00pm. 0800 STA HELP (0800 782 4357), fax (04) 473 4706, email helpdesk@nzsta.org.nz
  • Example involving investigation and interviewing of students
    • Example 1

      A teacher noticed a large spray-painted ‘tag’ on the wall of the brand new gymnasium. The tag displayed an offensive statement and a symbol used by a student at the school. Staff and students were upset by the tag as it had racist undertones and threatened violence.

      While the teacher was certain that the artist was the student named in the painting, he knew it was important to investigate the incident completely as it was likely that the offending student would face school discipline.

      The teacher invited the student named in the painting to meet with him and the dean in the school office. The student attended the meeting and was asked some questions. He denied doing the spray-painting.

      The student had paint on his hands. The teacher found spray cans when he was asked to open his bag. Based on these facts, the teacher formed the impression that the student had done the tagging and told the student this. The student did not respond to the teacher’s conclusion at this point. The teacher recorded the student’s lack of response and completed an incident report.

      This report was given to the principal for consideration.

      In this case, it was the role of the school to fully investigate the school-related incident. The principal chose to call the Police, because the tag contained threats of violence and gang insignia.