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.

5. Traumatic incidents

A school experiencing an incident of student discipline may find the issue becomes complicated as it affects many staff, students and the community and/or involves intense media pressure. When this occurs, Traumatic Incident Teams can support a school’s management of the situation. It may also be helpful to think about the following areas when managing student disciplinary proceedings:

  • Not all stand-downs and suspensions would be considered traumatic incidents
    • Examples of traumatic incidents may include:

      • the death or serious injury of a child or young person, staff member or family/whānau member
      • students witnessing serious injury or death of a child, young person, staff member or family/whānau members
      • threats to the safety of students or staff, including the presence at the school of an individual behaving in a dangerous or threatening manner
      • a lost or missing child, young person or staff member
      • floods, fires, earthquakes or other community crisis or natural disaster.

      Your school will have policies in place to cope with a traumatic incident, should it occur. Ministry of Education Special Education staff can assist with traumatic incident planning. Traumatic incident plans should include what to do in the event of violence at school, student suicide, the unexpected death of a student or teacher and natural disasters.

      In the event of a traumatic incident, Special Education staff, under the guidance of Traumatic Incident Coordinators, will work alongside your school’s traumatic incident team to support your traumatic incident plan. The support is usually short-term.

      Your local Traumatic Incident Coordinator can be contacted on 0800 TI TEAM (0800 84 8326) when an incident:

      • causes sudden and/or significant disruption to the operation, or effective operation, of your school
      • affects a large number of children and young people and/or staff
      • creates significant dangers or risks to the physical and emotional well-being of children, young people or people within a community
      • attracts media attention or a public profile for the school.

      In some circumstances it will also be important to contact other key agencies in your community for support and guidance.

  • Example of a situation where students may face a stand-down or suspension and it is a traumatic incident
    • Example 1

      A student was murdered outside school hours. The school contacted the Traumatic Incident Coordinator for advice and support. The school received support to manage the effects of the incident and set up a system to monitor ‘at-risk’ students. One student at the school some time after the incident started exhibiting behavioural problems in class and acting aggressively towards other students. The school was concerned for his well-being and thought he posed a risk to himself and others, and was contemplating suspending him. The student was identified previously as ‘at-risk’. Contact was made with his family and agreement was made to refer to mental health services. Before this could be actioned, the principal liaised with the local regional office of the Ministry to obtain Interim Response Funding to support the student’s engagement at school.