Guidelines for the surrender and retention of property and searches
All schools must provide a safe physical and emotional environment for students and staff. Learn about what to do if you're considering searching or confiscating student property.
- About the guidelines
- What’s in the guidelines
- Digital technology: Safe and responsible use in schools
The surrender and retention of property and searches guidelines are designed to help you if you're:
- faced with a situation where the safety of students, staff or the school is compromised, and
- you're considering searching or confiscating student property.
These are guidelines only, not a reference manual.
- describe the responsibilities of school boards
- explain the legislation and processes
- address particular issues in detail and outline some scenarios
- include a checklist for schools and links to related resources.
The guidelines are intended as a resource to assist principals and boards to deal with situations where the safety of students, staff and school is compromised.
There's no definitive way to deal with each and every scenario. Often the circumstances will be straightforward and responses will be routine. But there will be occasions when your best course of action is not obvious. Look to your own experience and exercise judgement based on what's reasonable in the circumstances.
Principles of searching or confiscating property
The guidelines are based on 4 principles.
Principle 1: Provide a safe physical and emotional environment
All schools are required to provide a safe physical and emotional environment for students and staff.
A safe environment for students and staff is of paramount importance and therefore must be given primacy when applying the guidelines. National Administration Guideline 5 and other legislation clearly establish this.
Principle 2: Have a policy and procedure
Parents, students and the public will have a legitimate expectation that the school environment will be free from drugs, weapons, alcohol and cyber bullying.
They will expect schools to develop a written policy and procedure on surrender and retention and to advise them accordingly. Schools must be mindful of these expectations.
Principle 3: Act in good faith and in a non-intrusive way
Parliament has given new powers and clarified the law in relation to searches and retaining student property. In exercising these powers, schools must act reasonably, in good faith and in the least intrusive manner to achieve a safe environment.
Principle 4: Make sure it is reasonable and necessary
Students are protected under Section 21 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, which states: "Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure, whether of the person, property or correspondence or otherwise".
This section doesn't prohibit searches or seizure of student property but schools must be able to justify their actions as reasonable and necessary to maintain a safe environment.
See sections 106 to 114 of the Education and Training Act 2020:
The 'Digital technology: Safe and responsible use in schools' guide for schools tells school staff what they can and can’t do and it gives some ideas about how to create a safe digital environment.
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