Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions, expulsions

If your child is stood down or suspended from a state school, state-integrated school, or kura find out what to do next and where to go to get advice and support.

Removing a child from school or kura should always be the last resort after a range of other interventions have been tried and have failed to improve the situation.

This section looks at:

 What happens if my child is stood down?

A stand-down is when your child is removed from school or kura for a short period – no more than 5 days in a school term or a total of 10 days in a school year. Only a principal or acting principal can do this.

Stand-downs provide an opportunity for schools,kura, students and their families to have time to look at the problem and to work together to try and stop this happening again.

Your child can’t be stood-down simply because they’ve broken a school or kura rule or misbehaved. A stand-down can only be used for:

  • continual disobediance (regularly or deliberately disregarding rules or refusing to do as they are told) which is harmful or dangerous to other students
  • gross misconduct (serious misbehaviour) which is harmful or dangerous to other students
  • when the behaviour is likely to cause serious harm to your child or others.

What next?

If your child has been stood down, the principal (or a senior staff member) will contact you to let you know. You’ll then receive a letter telling you of the stand-down. You can ask to meet the principal, or the principal may ask to meet with you. Your child can be at the meeting and you can take a support person too.

The stand-down takes effect the day after the principal’s decision is made. In some cases the school will send your child home straight away however the stand-down officially begins the next day.

Your child will be able to return to school or kura on the date given in the principal’s letter. However, you can ask the principal to consider whether your child can go to school or kura for certain activities or classes within the stand-down period. Your child may also be required to go to school or kura for guidance and counselling during the stand-down period.

The stand-down period can be lifted, shortened or withdrawn by the principal before it expires.

What is a suspension and the process (8 steps)?

A suspension is the formal removal of your child from school or kura by the principal, until the board of trustees meets to decide what to do.

It’s the suspension process that can lead to an exclusion (students under 16) or expulsion (students over 16) – these are the most serious of outcomes. Or it may be that the board will decide to lift the suspension with or without some conditions or extend the suspension with some conditions.

The principal must follow a fair and legal process involving these 8 steps: 

Step 1: Principal’s decision

As with a stand-down, a principal must determine whether a suspension is warranted on any of these grounds:

  • continual disobedience (regularly or deliberately disregarding rules or refusing to do as they are told) which is harmful or dangerous to other students
  • gross misconduct (serious misbehaviour) which is harmful or dangerous to other students
  • behaviour that risks serious harm if the student is not suspended.

The personal circumstances of your child and the context in which the incident or behaviour happened are also considered by the principal.

The principal should also consider what information parents and/or carers can give, but there is no legal requirement to involve parents and/or carers before a suspension.

How to prepare yourself for a conversation with the principal:

  • make sure the school can contact you quickly if they need to consult with you
  • be prepared to talk with the principal within a fair timeframe eg as soon as possible
  • make sure you know why a suspension is being considered
  • provide information about your child that may be relevant
  • answer any questions
  • approach the conversation with an open mind
  • take notice of what is said – sometimes taking notes can help you remember what was discussed.

Step 2: Inform parents and/or carers, the board and the ministry of the suspension

The principal must immediately tell you, the board of trustees and the Ministry of Education that they have decided to suspend your child and the reason for doing this. You will also receive a letter telling you of the suspension. information about the suspension meeting and options on how to attend the suspension meeting.

Options for parents, students and support persons can attend the suspension meeting

Meetings are usually face to face but if you’re not able to meet in person you can ask the board of trustees for a meeting by telephone or skype instead. You must send this request in writing to the board as soon as you find out about the suspension  – email is fine for this. The board may refuse your request if they receive it too late (ie on the day of the suspension meeting) or if the school doesn’t have the technology available to meet with you remotely.

While not going to school for classes, your child stays on the school or kura roll and the principal must offer guidance and counselling during this time.

You can also ask the principal to consider if your child can take part in special activities eg an exam.

Step 3: Suspension meeting deadline

This meeting must be held within 7 school days of the suspension or within 10 calendar days if the suspension takes place within 7 school days of the end of the school term (the day of the suspension isn’t counted).

Step 4: Notify parents and/or carers or whānau of the meeting

You and your child must be told the time and place of the board meeting in writing and you must be given at least 48 hours notice.

Information must be provided to you at least 48 hours before the meeting, must be as complete as possible and include:

  • details about how the suspension meeting will be run
  • a copy of the principal’s report to the board giving the reasons for the suspension
  • any other material about the suspension to be presented to the meeting
  • the options the board will consider and the outcomes.

Support people

You can take along someone who knows your child well and who can support you and speak for them, such as a coach, teacher aide, kaumatua, lawyer, youth worker, whanau member.

If you want some advice before going to the meeting you can contact the Students Rights Service (0800 499 488) or YouthLaw (0800 884 529). They can also help you if you think the school or kura has not followed the right process, or for other reasons you want to challenge part of the process.

Step 5: Suspension meeting

Unless the board is using a committee (commonly 3 people with a quorum of 2) at least half the trustees must be there (most state and state-integrated schools have 7-8 trustees so this will mean 4-5 trustees). This does not include the principal.

The meeting is an independent review of the principal’s decision. The principal can attend but they don’t have a role as a trustee.

Get prepared before the meeting. Think about what you want to say before the meeting, and take some notes to talk to at the meeting.

At the meeting

The board will look at the principal’s report and they will ask you if there’s anything they should know about before making a decision. If the principal raises any new matters that you haven’t heard of, you can ask for the meeting to be adjourned (put to a later date). This is so you can have time to consider the new information and possibly get legal advice.

You will have an opportunity to talk. This is where any notes you have made will come in handy. Your support person will be able to speak too.

Most boards will also want to hear the student’s side of the story so your child will need to be prepared to answer questions. 

Step 6: Board decision process

After all the material has been presented and discussed, everyone who is not a board member will leave the meeting (including the principal), unless the board allows everyone to stay. The board will then decide on the outcome of the suspension. Although the board may give you the decision at the meeting, they will still inform you in writing about what was decided and the reasons

Step 7: Board decision options

The board can make a decision to:

  • lift the suspension without conditions  - your child returns to school or kura full-time, the disciplinary process ends and the board is no longer involved
  • lift suspension with conditions - your child must return to school or kura full-time and comply with conditions that are ongoing and reasonable, for example if suspended for bullying they may have to attend a behavior management course
  • extend the suspension - your child can’t attend school or kura and must comply with conditions that are reasonable. Your child can return to school or kura on the date the extended suspension ceases or when the conditions are met, whichever is earlier
  • exclude your child if under 16 - the principals must within 10 days try to arrange for your child to enrolled in another school or if unsuccessful the Ministry of Education gets involved
  • expel your child if over 16 - in this case the principal or the Ministry doesn’t have to help you find a new school or kura.

What happens if the suspension is for an extended period?

If the suspension is extended with conditions for more than 4 weeks, your child’s progress will be monitored by the principal and reported to the board at its regular meetings. You’ll get a copy of each of the principal’s reports.

The principal must also make sure your child has school work to do at home and provide support to minimise the disadvantage caused by time away from school or kura.

Step 8: Reconsideration of a principal’s request

If the board's decision was to lift the suspension with conditions or extend the suspension with conditions, and your child doesn't comply with the conditions the principal can ask the board to reconsider its decision and consider other options.

If this happens the whole process starts again, beginning with letting you know of a meeting of the board to discuss this.

What are my child’s rights after suspension?

As with a stand-down your child has the right to guidance and counselling. If the suspension is extended the principal must provide an appropriate educational programme for your child.

What happens if my child is excluded from school or kura? (students under 16)?

Exclusion is the formal removal of your child from school or kura if they are under 16 years.

If your child is excluded from their school or kura then they must enrol at another school or kura.

The principal has 10 school days to try to arrange for your child to attend another school or kura. If they can’t do this they must inform the Ministry of Education and they will help to find another one for your child to go to. Be aware this process can take some time.

You can also try to enrol your child in another school or kura yourself. Be aware that schools and kura don’t have to accept a student that has been excluded.

What happens if my child is expelled (students 16 and over)?

Expulsion is the formal removal of your child from school or kura if they are 16 years old or older. This means they must leave and not attend the school they are enrolled at.

The principal does not have to try to find another school or kura for your child to attend, but they will tell the Ministry of Education if your child wants to continue with their schooling.

If your child does want to continue their schooling, you can try to enrol your child in another school or kura yourself. You can also ask the Ministry to help to find another school or kura for your child.

Schools and kura don’t have to accept a student expelled from another school.

Youth Services help young people not in education, employment or training to explore their options and transition successfully into education, employment or training.

What are my child’s rights after an exclusion or expulsion?

A school or kura may refuse to enrol your child if they have been excluded or expelled from another school so it can be difficult to re-enrol your child.  But the law does say the Ministry of Education can lift the exclusion to allow your child to return to the school or kura which excluded them or direct another school or kura to enrol your child. The Ministry can also direct you to enrol your child at Te Kura (formerly known as The Correspondence School)

You can contact the Students Rights Service (0800 499 488) or YouthLaw (0800 884 529) for free legal advice.

Can I stop the school or kura passing on information about the suspension or exclusion?

No. Schools and kura record the details of your child’s suspension or exclusion on their file, which can be passed on if they change schools. Your child does have the right to correct any wrong information. The general public and schools your child is not enrolled at cannot access suspension information and it is only supplied to schools and kura that enrol your child.

If your child disputes the school or kura’s version of events they need to write a statement of correction. The school or kura is not obliged to make any corrections but your child can ask that the statement be attached to their file so the two are read together.

What if my child is excluded and the only other school available is out of zone?

If the Ministry of Education directs another school to enrol your child then this overrides their enrolment zone rules.

If another school is willing to enrol your child and an arrangement is made between the principal of the outgoing school and the principal of the new school then the Ministry of Education can formally endorse this arrangement and then this also overrides any enrolment zone rules.

Can a principal tell my child to go home or suggest I withdraw my child?

The term kiwi suspension is often used for a suspension, exclusion or expulsion that is not legal. There are two types of kiwi suspension:

  1. being sent home for disciplinary reasons without going through the process required by the Education Act. For example, a student is sent home for fighting, or for not wearing the correct uniform, or parents and/or carers of special needs children are told to keep their child at home because the teacher aide is away.
  2. voluntary withdrawal of a student at a school or kura’s request. This is when a principal tries to get rid of a student who behaves badly and is uncooperative, by asking the parents and/or carers to remove the student because it is in their best interests.

You should not feel obliged to withdraw your child from the school or kura in any of these circumstances. It is your child’s right to be supported by the school or kura if there are problems. The principal must also take reasonable steps to ensure the student gets guidance and counselling.

Students can only be removed from school or kura for behavioural reasons by following the correct process and standing down or suspending the student.

What should I do if I think my child has been offered a kiwi suspension?

Contact the Parents Legal Information Line (toll free on 0800 499 488), YouthLaw (toll free on 0800 884 529) or your local Ministry of Education office for advice and help immediately.

Are there alternatives to stand-down, suspension etc?

Yes. Stand-downs suspensions, exclusions and expulsions should only be used by schools and kura as a last resort.

Schools and kura are encouraged to consider a range of responses to fit the seriousness of the case, and work to reduce the disruption to the student’s education and their return to school or kura if they have been removed.

There are Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) programmes to help parents and/or carers, whānau, teachers, schools and kura address behaviour issues, improve wellbeing and help children to achieve.  You can read more about the PB4L programmes on the Ministry of Education's website

At the board of trustees meeting parents and/or carers may wish to put forward other measures for the board to consider. Here are some examples:

  • ask if the school or kura has provided learning support or other support to address the behaviour
  • request a referral to the Ministry of Education's special education team for support, such as help from Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour
  • participate in a facilitated PB4L Restorative Practice conference. This sort of meeting can help to gain understanding of harm caused, repair the harm, and help the student to learn from the situation and change their behaviour
  • education courses on drugs, alcohol or stopping smoking - this is usually more relevant in secondary schools
  • a plan which requires the student to use their skills to help teachers eg coach a junior sports team or help the art teacher after school or kura.

Where can I get advice and support?

It is very upsetting and traumatic to have a child stood down, suspended, excluded or expelled from school or kura.  It is important to have good support around you and access to legal advice.  You can get free help from the following places:

  • Parent Legal Information Line - phone them toll free on 0800 499 488
  • Youth Law - phone them toll free on 0800 884 529
  • Children's Commissioner - phone them toll free on 0800 224 453.

What can I do if I feel the action taken is unfair?

You have a number of options:

  • ask the board of trustees to reconsider the decision. You must be clear about what you think is not right, for example the suspension board meeting was not conducted in a fair manner
  • get free legal advice. You can contact the Students Rights Service (0800 499 488) (0800 499 488) or YouthLaw (0800 884 529)
  • complain to the Ombudsman about how the school or kura conducted the process. This is free and can be done by phone or in writing. This may take a long time.
  • complain to the Human Rights Commission if you think the decision is made on the grounds of discrimination
  • complain to the Education Review Office about the way the school or kura runs its disciplinary system.
  • challenge the decision through the courts. This is done through the High Court and you will need a lawyer. This could be costly.

You need to be aware that apart from asking the board of trustees to reconsider its decision, other action can take months to reach a result.

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Further information

Resources

Websites

Ministry of Education's website which has detailed information on stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions, including guidelines and good practice. This information is written for schools, kura and boards of trustees but parents and/or carers can read it too.

Phone numbers and email addresses

Your local Ministry of Education office

Student Rights Service - 0800 499 488

Youth Law - 0800 884 529

Children's Commissioner - 0800 224 453

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