Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions guidelines – Part 1

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:  The Education and Training Act 2020 has replaced the Education Act 1989.  Any references to the Education Act 1989 in the Stand-downs, Suspensions, Exclusions and Expulsions (SEEE) Guidelines should be replaced with the relevant sections in the new Education and Training Act 2020. In Part 1, this includes replacing the sections of the Act in Appendix 1: The Education Act 1989 and Appendix 2: Education (Stand-down, Suspension, Exclusion and Expulsion) Rules 1999. In Part 2, this includes replacing the sections of the Act in the letters in the Appendix in the Good Practice Guidelines.

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 2 – Good practice are given where relevant.


  • Act fairly
      1. Staff members should avoid overbearing behaviour or acting in ways that could be perceived as oppressive. In some circumstances, it might be necessary to involve a parent, or other suitable adult, in the interests of fairness (though this will not normally be necessary). Even if the staff member has no intent to act in such a way, claims of this nature can distract everyone from resolving the issues at hand.
  • Involve the student
      1. The person investigating should put the facts as they understand them to the student and record the response. The student should be invited to comment on all the facts.
        He or she has the right to be heard. This is a requirement of natural justice.
        1. The student might admit responsibility or involvement in an incident.
        2. Alternatively, the student might deny responsibility or involvement. Any denial should be fairly considered; staff members have the discretion to believe whether or not they are plausible.

      * HINT: Silence does not stop a staff member forming a view about what happened and drawing inferences from what is known about an incident. If a staff member draws inferences, these should ideally be put to the student for comment.

  • Resolve major disputes and uncertainties if possible
      1. An investigation must be fair and thorough. The principal will base his or her decision on the evidence it produces. The principal must have confidence in that evidence before standing down or suspending (and cannot suspend on suspicion and leave the matter to the board to resolve). Errors at this stage might mean any decision by the principal is challenged. Staff members should try their best to come to a view regarding any significant disputes or uncertainties. If it is not possible to come to a view it will be important to record this so that the principal can take this into account when making any decision.
  • Summary
      1. You will ideally be able to answer at least one of these questions with a “yes” before a decision to stand-down or suspend is considered:
        1. Was the student caught in the act? or
        2. Was the incident seen by someone you think is credible? or
        3. Was the student implicated by other significant circumstantial evidence? or
        4. Did the student freely admit involvement or responsibility?