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.

During a suspension

This page outlines a principal's obligations during a suspension.

  • Tell the board
    • Do this immediately

      1. You must tell the board:
        1. that the student has been suspended; and
        2. the reasons for your decision to suspend.
      1. You may do this in any way that seems best.
  • Keep the student on the roll
      1. The student must remain on your roll. They may only be removed if they:
        1. enrol at another school; or
        2. are granted an exemption from enrolment; or
        3. leave the school system altogether (if over 16).
  • Guidance and counselling
    • Do this as soon as practicable

      1. You must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the student gets guidance and counselling that is:
        1. reasonable; and
        2. practicable in all the circumstances of the suspension.
      1. To help you do this, consider that one of your aims must be to “minimise the disruption to a student’s attendance at school and facilitate the return of the student to school when that is appropriate.”
  • Consider attendance during suspension
      1. The student may attend school if the student or a parent asks you to allow that for whatever reason; and you consider that the request is reasonable.
      2. The student must attend school if you reasonably consider that it is appropriate because either:
        1. the student’s educational programme requires it (the student might need to fulfil course requirements for a qualification or sit an examination); or
        2. the student needs to receive guidance and counselling.
      1. Otherwise, the student must not attend
  • Report for board
    • The principal must be able to give this report to the student and a parent at least 48 hours before the meeting.

      1. You must write a report for the board that contains all information relevant to the suspension. Your report should be specific about:
        1. what happened; and
        2. when and where it happened; and
        3. why it constitutes grounds for suspension under the Act.
      1. To help you do this, consider that:
        1. The language should be simple, factual and neutral;
        2. It should contain all relevant information:
          1. There can be no surprises for the board or student – your report will be the basis for the board’s discussion at the suspension meeting.
          2. If there are significant disagreements over the facts it should make clear which version you prefer and why.
          3. It must state why you decided to suspend; giving reasons and citing the ground for suspension (ie, you consider that there has been gross misconduct, continual disobedience or behaviour risking serious harm. [Refer paras 26–33 for an explanation of the thresholds])
          4. The student and a parent should be able to understand it so they can comment and participate at the suspension meeting.
          5. It may include background information about the student’s history, including discipline and pastoral support, taking care not to confuse this background with your reasons for suspension.
          6. It must be accurate, up to date, note the decision, be complete, be relevant and not be misleading.
  • Information about suspension meeting
    • The board must do this as soon as practicable after the suspension.

      The board must ensure, however it gives this information, that it is able to reach the student and his or her parent at least 48 hours before the suspension meeting (allow for the post). If all the parties agree, this time may be reduced.

      1. The board must give the student and a parent this information in writing:
        1. when and where the suspension meeting will be (so they can make arrangements to attend); and
        2. what options the board has at that meeting for dealing with the suspension (so they know the possible serious consequences).
      1. The board must give the student and his or her parents in writing:
        1. information about the procedures that it follows at suspension meetings (so they know what to expect)
        2. advice that the student and his or her parents and their representative may attend the meeting and speak at it about the suspension (so that they know to prepare)
        3. the principal’s report to the board on the suspension (so they know the case they have to answer); and
        4. any other material about the suspension that the principal or board are going to present at the meeting (so there are no surprises).

      * NOTE Giving a document

      If you have to give a document to a student or a parent, you must use the method below that you think will most likely cause the document to reach them. You must either

      • personally deliver it to them; or
      • post it to their usual address (it will be considered to be delivered at the time it would have been delivered in the ordinary course of post); or
      • send it by fax or email (it will be considered to be delivered on the day after the day on which it was sent); or
      • provide it to them in some other way that they approve.

      Proving you gave a document is covered in Rule 4 (see Appendix 2). A telephone call to confirm receipt of the document can help prove this.

      1. Information given to the student and parent must be as complete as possible. This is a requirement of natural justice. Nevertheless, the board might be concerned that some of the principal’s report or other material might deal with the privacy of other people. For example, another student might have spoken in confidence to a staff member about an incident or be worried about bullying. In these cases, boards should seek professional advice about how to fairly withhold limited details while still disclosing as much as possible to the student and parent. Boards should be mindful of the Privacy Act 1993 and the Official Information Act 1982.

      To help you communicate this information to parents you may wish to use a model letter template. [Refer Part II, Appendix, Model letters: Letter 2 – Notifying parent/guardian of suspension] You should also consider telephoning a parent.

  • Timing of the suspension meeting
    • The board must make sure that it holds a suspension meeting before the applicable date below. If it does not, the suspension expires, the student must return to school and the board loses the power to lift the suspension with conditions, extend it, exclude or expel the student.

      1. The board must have the suspension meeting before either:
        1. the close of the seventh school day after the decision is made to suspend the student; or
        2. if the end of term occurs less than seven school days after the suspension takes effect, then the meeting must be held by the end of the tenth calendar day after the decision is made to suspend the student.

      * NOTE

      The seven-day (or ten-day) rule is absolute. A suspension meeting cannot be delayed, even by agreement. It may proceed without the family being present. The Ministry of Education has no discretion to change the date. If a board wants to lift the suspension with conditions, extend it, exclude or expel it must hold the suspension meeting and make a final decision by the applicable date.

      * HINT

      You may wish to seek professional advice from the NZSTA Trustee helpdesk if you are uncertain about your options.