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.

9. Special education needs

It can be challenging for schools to manage student behaviour when working with students with special education needs. Individual Education Plans support schools to work with students, families and sometimes agencies to support students’ access to schooling.

Prior to taking disciplinary action, it may be helpful to consider the following factors:

  • Catering for special education needs
    • When managing student behaviour it is important to take into account the student’s viewpoint, and their needs. There may be particular circumstances which have led to the student’s behaviour.

      Ask these questions of your school

      Have we determined whether any other factors contributed to the student’s behaviour? Emotional triggers? Family factors, peer relationships, health, mental health, trauma or personal tragedy? Special medical conditions? [Refer Part I: Principal’s decision, What part have the student’s individual circumstances played?]

      In situations where students have special education needs, it is not always easily understood why a student may have behaved in a disruptive way. Has your school met with the family and health professionals to assess the needs of the student and what can you do to meet these needs?

      It is important to ensure that all resources have been utilised to support the student. Has your school made appropriate referrals for assistance?
      For example:

      • Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour
      • Learning Support Teachers
      • Resource Teachers: Māori
      • specially trained teachers for students with vision impairments (called Resource Teachers: Vision)
      • teachers who work with children who have hearing impairments (called Resource Teachers: Deaf)
      • public health nurse
      • other supports in the local community.

      Ask these questions of your school

      Do we need to make a referral to Special Education for support with behaviour, high health needs, communication issues or complex needs?

  • Students with special education needs who have compromised school rules
    • In some situations it is not a simple case of students breaking the rules purposefully. It is important for schools to understand students’ needs and put support in place to manage their special education needs.

      Ask these questions of your school

      Did we have an Individual Education Plan in place for the student at the time of the incident? Was it being fully supported by school staff and teaching staff at the time the incident occurred?

  • Example of working with students with special education needs
    • Example 1

      A six-year-old student diagnosed with ‘high-functioning ASD’ was non-compliant, aggressive and had frequent ‘meltdowns’ at school. He was on the verge of being excluded from school.

      The boy’s father decided to home-school him, but after two terms this was no longer successful. The boy’s paediatrician felt it was essential that he be integrated back into school. A strengthening families meeting was held involving the parents, paediatrician, psychologist, mental health services.

      The transition plan was supported by the parents, Special Education and all outside agencies that were involved. The acting principal considers that the time put in at this early stage sets up for future success.

      The student’s transition back into school is proving to be successful as he is now enjoying school. His behaviour is less aggressive and more controlled.