Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions guidelines – Part 1
About the 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:
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.
At the suspension meeting
- To hold a suspension meeting enough trustees must attend for the board to have a quorum. The principal has a different role and therefore is not counted when considering whether you have a quorum. Alternatively your board may have delegated the power to make decisions in suspension cases to a committee of at least two people. As with all committees, there must be a written board resolution establishing the committee and delegating the power to act on the board’s behalf in suspension cases.
- Decisions cannot be made in relation to prospective students, former students or students enrolled at another school.
- A board suspension meeting is an automatic review of the suspension process. At a suspension meeting, the principal has a completely different role from the rest of the board, which independently reviews the principal’s decision to suspend. The board independently reviews the principal’s decision. While the board may end up agreeing with the principal, it must be sure itself that the incident was fairly investigated, and was of a nature where suspension was an option (ie it amounted to gross misconduct, continual disobedience or behaviour risking serious harm).
How to hold a meeting
- How a suspension meeting is run is a matter for each board and the format does not have to be overly formal or court-like. The Act does not provide for the calling of witnesses at a suspension meeting: this is not appropriate. Significant disputes about facts should have already been raised, decided upon and recorded by the principal in their report. Instead, the focus is on reviewing the principal’s decision, hearing from everyone and finding a way forward.
Hearing from the student
- The student, the student’s parents, and their representatives are entitled to attend the meeting, speak at it, and have their views considered by the board before it makes its decision.
- You may, however, proceed with considering the suspension if they choose not to attend or participate.
Adjournment to consider new information
In deciding how long to adjourn for, you must consider the amount of time that the person making the request needs, in his or her particular circumstances, to consider the new information.
Even if you adjourn, you must still make a decision before the applicable date. [Refer Timing of the suspension meeting] If you do not, the suspension expires, the student must return to school and you lose the power to lift the suspension with conditions, extend it, exclude or expel.
- You must adjourn the meeting if:
- a student, parent, principal or board member requests an adjournment; and
- the adjournment is to consider new information, which either:
- was not given to the student and parent prior to the meeting; or
- is new to the student, parent, principal or board member for some other reason.
- The purpose of the adjournment is to consider new information (not to create it).
- While you are deliberating and making your decision, you must either:
- require all the other parties to withdraw from the meeting; or
- ask all the other parties to stay at the meeting.
- If the student and parents are asked to withdraw from a meeting then the principal must withdraw too. The principal has a different role from other trustees at a suspension meeting and is not there as a decision maker. If board members deliberate in private with the principal or ask the principal questions in the absence of the student and parents, this may lead to accusations of bias.
Understanding the board's options
- The board must make only one of the following four decisions:
If you think the student should: then the board must: attend your school again full-time lift the suspension without conditions attend your school again full-time but have further specific responsibilities placed on them lift the suspension with conditions remain out of your school for a set period of time in order to fulfil specific responsibilities place on them extend the suspension for a reasonable period with conditions (aimed at facilitating the return of the student to school) leave your school exclude the student if he or she is under 16 or expel the student if he or she is over 16
- Conditions allow you to formally manage the student’s behaviour and provide pastoral assistance. You may impose any condition that is:
- reasonable; and
- aimed at facilitating the return of the student to school (if you are extending a suspension).
- To help you do this, you should ask:
Is a condition:
- related to the incident or causes behind the incident?
- within the control of the student (ie, can the student comply with it)?
- There are consequences for not complying with conditions; the principal, if they think it is appropriate, may ask you to reconsider your decision at a reconsideration meeting. If that happened, you would be able to confirm, reverse or modify your initial decision. All of your options would be open. [Refer At the reconsideration meeting, paras 129–136]
Understanding lifting the suspension without conditions
- This means the student must return to school and attend full time. The formal disciplinary process ends and the board is no longer involved. [Refer When the suspension is lifted without conditions, paras 99–100]
Understanding lifting the suspension with conditions
- This means the student must return to school and attend full time. However, the student must still comply with ongoing conditions. If the student does not, the principal may request a reconsideration meeting. [Refer When the suspension is lifted with conditions, paras 101–104]
Understanding extending the suspension with conditions
- This means the student must not attend school (unless permitted by the principal) and must comply with conditions aimed at facilitating their return to school. The student will return to school once either the conditions are met or the extended suspension expires (whichever occurs first).
- While a student is out of school on an extended suspension the principal must provide appropriate guidance and counselling to the student. The principal must also provide an appropriate educational programme for the student to facilitate their return to school and minimise the educational disadvantages that occur due to absence from school. The principal may request a reconsideration meeting if the student fails to comply with the conditions.
- The board must take appropriate steps to facilitate the students return to school. If the extended suspension is for four weeks or more you must monitor the progress of the student and must receive written updates about the student’s progress at each regular board meeting. [Refer When the suspension is extended with conditions, paras 105–119]
- This means the student (under 16) must not attend your school (unless permitted by the principal) and must enrol at another one. The principal must try to arrange for the student to attend another reasonably convenient school. The board may refuse to re-enrol the student (unless the Ministry of Education lifts the exclusion). The board of any other state school may refuse to enrol the student (unless the Ministry of Education directs that school9 to enrol the student). [Refer When the student is excluded, paras 137–141]
The decision to exclude a student is only to be made in circumstances that justify the most serious response.
- The student (16 or over) may try to enrol at another school, but does not have to. You may refuse to re-enrol the student. [Refer When the student is expelled, paras 142–144]
The board of any other state school may choose not to enrol the student (unless the Ministry of Education directs that school10 to enrol the student).
Making the decision
Involving the student and parent
- Before you make your decision, you may try to get all the parties at the meeting to agree on what the decision should be. You may suggest a possible outcome to the student and invite comment. Involving everyone increases the chances of achieving a fair and workable outcome. You do not, however, need agreement to make your decision.
- When making your decision, you must apply exactly the same tests as the principal [Refer Principal’s decision, paras 22–37]:
- Was the incident gross misconduct, continual disobedience or behaviour risking serious harm? and
- If the incident was gross misconduct or continual disobedience, did it set a harmful or dangerous example to other students at school? and
- What part did the student’s individual circumstances play? and
- What further action is appropriate?
- This is a balancing exercise and you must take into account all relevant circumstances. To help you do this, you may consider:
- a how other students have been affected
- whether leniency would be appropriate
- your obligations regarding natural justice, and
- your obligations to provide a range of responses for cases of varying degrees of seriousness.
Guidance from the CourtsThe obligations to think through all your options and consider all the circumstances “…are designed for the protection of children. They are not to be sacrificed to administrative or disciplinary efficiency, or some supposed need for absolute certainty. Results must not be fixed: they must instead be fair.”11
Recording your reasons
- You must record your decision, and the reasons for it, in writing. You must explicitly consider each option open to you. Your records need to be complete. There should be enough information in the report to show that you turned your mind to the criteria you had to apply. Document why you made the decision and how you arrived at the decision.
Communicating your decision
- To help you communicate your decision in writing, you may wish to use a model letter template.