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Student Stand-downs and Suspensions

Lynfield Decision - Court of Appeal 2008 (pdf)

COURT OF APPEAL OF NEW ZEALAND

STEPHEN W BOVAIRD AND THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF LYNFIELD COLLEGE V J SUING BY HIS LITIGATION GUARDIAN (CA308/07)

Case Summary

This summary is provided to assist in the understanding of the Court's judgment. It does not comprise part of the reasons for that judgment. The full judgment with reasons is the only authoritative document. The full text of the judgment and reasons can be found at Judicial Decisions of Public Interest

The Court of Appeal (O'Regan, Priestley, Heath JJ) has delivered its judgment on the appeal of the decision of the Principal of Lynfield College to suspend J, a 16 year old student, and the later decision of the Board of Trustees of the College to expel him. In the High Court,  Justice Keane had quashed both decisions and reinstated J at the College. The Principal and the Board had made it clear that J was to continue to be a student of the College regardless of the outcome of the appeal.

The Court examined the extent of natural justice requirements that apply when a principal or teacher undertakes an investigation of misconduct that potentially could lead to suspension.  The Court found that principals and teachers are not required to involve parents when investigating or questioning a student about such misconduct. Imposing such a requirement is not necessary and is at odds with the legislative policy in both the Education Act 1989 and the Education (Stand-down, Suspension, Exclusion and Expulsion) Rules 1999 (along with the MoE Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions guidelines Part 1 and Part 2). All that is required in such circumstances is the fair treatment of students.

The Court did not consider that a principal must consult the parents of a student before making a decision to suspend. The Court found that while there is an obligation on a principal is to act fairly, what is required to meet that obligation will depend on the facts of the particular case. There is no absolute rule of law that a principal must involve a parent prior to making a decision to suspend in every case. The suspension of a student must be reviewed by the board of trustees within 7 days, and provision is made for parental participation in that process.

The Court of Appeal disagreed with the High Court which had decided that parental involvement was necessary before a student could be suspended. However, the Court upheld the High Court view that the Principal and the Board had failed to engage directly with the statutory criteria for suspending and expelling a student and dismissed the appeal against the decision to reinstate J. 

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