Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions
What is a stand-down?
A stand-down is when you’re removed from school by the principal for a short amount of time. Only the principal or acting dean can stand you down.
Stand-downs can’t be for more than five school days in a term, or 10 school days in a year. The day you’re stood down, and days when the school isn’t open aren’t counted.
What can I be stood down for?
You can only be stood down if your behaviour fits into one of the following categories:
- “gross misconduct” that’s harmful or dangerous to other students
- “continual disobedience” that’s harmful or dangerous to other students
- behaviour that is likely to cause serious harm to you or to other students.
These behaviours are explained below.
What is “gross misconduct”?
“Gross misconduct” is serious misbehaviour. Whether something is serious misbehaviour will always depend on the situation. The misconduct must be serious enough to justify removing you from school.
School rules can’t automatically say certain behaviour is gross misconduct. The school must consider your individual needs and circumstances.
For example, if a student has experienced a trauma, they might need some grace. The principal should take this into account when deciding what to do.
Case: R v Syms and “gross misconduct”
M & R v Syms and the Board of Trustees of Palmerston North Boys’ High School (December 1990)  NZAR 705
The courts have said serious misconduct must be “striking and reprehensible to a high degree”, and not just minor things that young people might do every now and then.
For example, in a case where students on a school ski trip were suspended for drinking alcohol, the judge said that whether drinking alcohol amounted to “gross misconduct” would depend on all the circumstances, and the school had to consider questions such as who got the alcohol, how much was consumed, and whether the student was drunk.
What is “continual disobedience”?
Continual disobedience is when you regularly and deliberately ignore rules or refuse to do what you’re told. It’s not continual disobedience if you respond slowly or don’t do what you’re told because you don’t understand. There must be an element of deliberate non-cooperation or defiance, and it has to happen more than once.
Continual disobedience isn’t enough by itself for a suspension or stand-down – the behaviour must also be a harmful or dangerous example to other students. The school should think about whether your disobedience would undermine discipline and safety standards in the school if you’re not removed from school.
Behaviours related to recognised medical conditions wouldn’t usually be considered deliberate, and so wouldn’t amount to “continual disobedience”. Continual disobedience is when you regularly break school rules on purpose.
What happens before I’m stood down?
If you’ve had problems at school, the school should have informed your parents and organised guidance and counselling.
The school should also be working with your parents to address any issues.
A stand-down should be a last resort.
What happens after I’m stood down?
Education and Training Act, ss 80, 88
The principal must immediately contact your parents or guardians to:
- tell them you have been stood down and for what reason
- how long the stand-down will be for.
Then the principal can decide to send you home for the rest of the day, or that you’ll stay until the end of the school day. The principal shouldn’t send you home without talking to your parents or guardians first. The principal also needs to send a letter about the stand-down to your parents or guardians.
Stand-downs are supposed to give you, your guardian(s), and the school time to think about what’s happened. And hopefully work out how to stop it from happening again.
The principal also needs to take steps to help you get counselling. See “Mental health and counselling”
The principal can decide to shorten or lift the stand-down before it ends for any reason.
What is a stand-down meeting?
Education (Stand-Down, Suspension, Exclusion, and Expulsion) Rules 1999, rules 11, 12
If you’re stood down, the principal might ask to meet with you and your parents or guardians to discuss the problem, and what can be done to address it. You are allowed to go to the meeting.
You, or your parents or guardians, can also ask for a stand-down meeting, and the principal must then arrange one.
At the meeting, you can provide reasons why you think the stand-down should be lifted or shortened. The principal can cancel the stand-down at this stage.
Can I go to school while I’m stood-down if I need to?
Yes, in some situations. You or your parent or guardian can ask for you to be allowed to attend school for some reasons. This could be to sit exams, fulfil a course requirement, or go to counselling, for example. The principal has to agree if your request is reasonable.
Once the principal agrees to this, you have to go to school at the relevant times otherwise you might be considered truant (“wagging school”).