Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions guidelines – Part 2

About the guidelines

These guidelines:

  • are designed to assist school boards, 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.

Please note: in the documents below the Education and Training Act 2020 has replaced the Education Act 1989.

The guidelines comprise:

Part 1: Legal options and duties [PDF, 2.4 MB]

Part 2: 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 1 – Legal options and duties are given where relevant.

4. Communicating about incidents of student behaviour

An effective communication plan can be essential to ensuring an incident with a student is managed appropriately by the school. When making a decision about your school’s response to an incident of student behaviour, it may be helpful to think about the following questions in relation to how you communicate the facts and the implications to different groups of people within the school and wider community.

  • Communicating within the school
    • It can be appropriate for a principal to ensure school staff are informed about some incidents of student behaviour. A proactive approach can help prevent incorrect information being passed around.

      Ask these questions of your school:

      Do we have a way to communicate key issues within our school, such as a communication plan? Do we have a nominated person/s to update school staff about incidents of student behaviour?

      Do we need to appoint one person to manage the details about an incident and act as a key spokesperson?

      Who is the audience – who are involved? Who does the incident affect? Have we considered the wider implications of the incident? Have we thought about the implications for teachers, school staff, students, board of trustees, parents and the wider community?

      Are there religious or cultural values to consider? Is a translator needed for the students or families?

      Do we have a crisis/emergency management plan which looks at short-, medium- and long-term planning?

      Note: The Traumatic Incident Response Coordinator at your local Ministry office can assist you with resources to support communication with children and young people during and immediately after an event.

  • Communicating with parents/family/whānau
    • Due to the seriousness or wide-reaching implications of some student behaviour, it can be appropriate to inform parents/family/whānau.

      Ask these questions of your school

      Do we have a plan about informing parents/family/whānau? Do we nominate one key contact person? Is our plan for informing parents/family/whānau clearly documented and provided to all parents? Is it up to date?

      What are our acceptable methods of communication – school newsletters or the school website? Is a telephone message or an email appropriate in situations of gross misconduct? Do we need to hold a community meeting?

      Do we have an information sheet that is given to parents which explains stand-downs and suspensions? [Refer Part I: During a stand-down, Tell a parent]

  • Communicating with the media
    • Some incidents of student behaviour can have implications for the wider community that draw either positive or negative attention to the school if highlighted by the media. For example, the student may have links to a gang, be a son/daughter of a celebrity or be a son/daughter of school staff.

      Ask these questions of your school

      Do we consider that the student behaviour may have media implications? If this information was publicly released to the community, would it have an adverse effect on the student, their family or our school?

      Do we have a relationship with the local community newspaper or radio station? Do we need to appoint a nominated media spokesperson?

      Do we need to be proactive in communicating with the media? Is it appropriate for us to submit press statements to the local media about updates in school policies eg, school safety, truancy, use of cellphones and the internet, uniform changes and policies on body piercing, hairstyles, jewellery and tattoos?

      Is there a risk not communicating with the media?

  • Communicating with the wider community
    • Some incidents of student behaviour can have implications for the wider community. Managing a particular incident of student behaviour may set a precedent for all students in the community, which should be well known. For example, as a community response to managing school behaviour and truancy, local retailers may decide to support the school by not selling products to students during school hours.

      Ask these questions of your school

      Does our local community know about our school policies and the consequences of not adhering to them? What do we do to communicate with our wider community about school-related behaviour?

      Have we prepared key messages? What other ways could we communicate key messages eg, media statements, running a community meeting, hui or fono, producing a specific school newsletter or letter to parents, or posting information on the school website?

      Do we have an up-to-date list of agency contacts and a nominated person to contact relevant agencies?

      Have we considered contacting other neighbouring schools to discuss incidents of student behaviour eg, local gang problems, unsafe areas, etc?

  • Examples of situations where schools have communicated with different parties about a school-related incident
    • Example 1

      Each week, the principal meets with the local Police constable at the school. The constable has a regular slot at the weekly school assembly and he is well known by the students. An incident occurred within the immediate community on a weekend, and while it did not involve a student of the school, it touched many. The school invited the local constable into the school to support the school’s response to the community in relation to the incident. On this occasion, a shared community approach was taken using a proactive way to address the media.

      Example 2

      A student died in a car accident on a weekend. The school was the only school in a small rural town. The entire school and community were distraught by the event. A group of students who were close friends with the student who died started truanting and gathering at the local park to drink alcohol and smoke cannabis. The principal was contemplating suspending the students and contacted the Special Education Traumatic Incident Coordinator for support.

      The principal was supported by the Traumatic Incident Team to prepare key messages and then put out a statement to the local community and Police. The principal also placed the statement on the school website and gave it to the local newspaper. The school hosted a special memorial service in the school hall. These actions gave the school the opportunity to communicate their loss and offer support to the family and the local community. The students were also offered support and soon returned to school.