Effective student behaviour management - the board's role

Ko tā te poari tūnga whakahaere tōtika i te whanonga ākonga

Each student's right to an education must be balanced with the need to ensure all students are able to learn in an emotionally and physically safe environment. 

Taking a student out of school can have a significant impact on their learning and social outcomes. That is why stand-downs and suspensions should always be the principal's last response after all other avenues have been tried. 

Stand-down means the formal removal of a student from school for a specified period. Stand-downs of a particular student can total no more than five school days in a term or ten school days in a year. 

Suspension means the formal removal of a student from school until the board of trustees decides the outcome at a suspension meeting.

Note: Either stand-down or suspension is the only means a principal can legally require a student to stay away from school for a behaviour-related reason.

How does the board get involved?

When a principal decides to suspend a student, the board must hold a meeting (to determine the outcome of the suspension) within seven school days of the suspension decision. If the decision to suspend is made in the last week of a term, the board must hold its suspension meeting within ten calendar days.

If the board does not hold the meeting in time, the suspension automatically lifts and the student returns to school.

Boards need to follow good meeting processes at the suspension meeting. Find out more:

You can take the Conflict of interest module on the Knowledge Hub here. 

What happens at a suspension meeting?

The principal should attend the meeting. The student, the student's family | whānau and any support people are entitled to attend the suspension meeting. The meeting can only go ahead without the student and family if the board is satisfied they have been notified of the meeting and given a copy of the principal's report at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.

The board then must:

  • review the principal's report
  • listen with an open mind to the student's response and to any information from the family | whānau
  • decide if the principal made a legally correct decision and followed a fair process
  • take all relevant information into account and decide whether to:
    • lift the suspension without conditions
    • lift the suspension with conditions
    • extend the suspension with conditions. Find out more about suspension conditions
    • exclude (if the student is under 16 years) or expel the student (if the student is 16 years and over).


Who can stand-down or suspend a student?

Only the principal can stand-down or suspend a student. They have to decide if the circumstances of the student's behaviour fall into one of three categories. 

These are:

  • the student's gross misconduct is a harmful or dangerous example to students at the school, or
  • the student's continual disobedience is a harmful or dangerous example to students at the school, or
  • the student's behaviour is likely to cause them harm, or harm to other students at the school.

View Flowchart 1: Principal considers possible stand-down or suspension.

Note: Either stand-down or suspension (under one of the three behaviour-related categories above) is the only means a principal can legally require a student to stay away from school for a “disciplinary” reason.

References: Section 14 of the Education Act 1989
Rule 8 Education (Stand-Down, Suspension, Exclusion, and Expulsion) Rules 1999.


What does the principal tell the board and the student’s parent?

After suspending a student, the principal must notify the board and the student’s parent/guardian as soon as possible about the suspension and  reason, plus the time, date and place of the board’s suspension meeting. This needs to be by any way that seems best. View page 42 of the Guidelines, Part 2

The principal should also let the parent/guardian know options on how they can attend the meeting. This can be in person or by teleconference or video link, thanks to a recent law change. These new options are included in page 42 of the Guidelines, Part 2

If the parent/guardian and other support people want to attend the suspension meeting by teleconference or video link they need to let the principal know this in writing as soon as possible. Text or email would be fine.




The principal's report – what the board should expect to find?

The principal’s report should be accurate, up to date, complete, relevant and not misleading. It should include the following:

  • Clear, factual and neutral information about what happened, including when and where it happened
  • Reasons why the principal considers the incident justifies suspension. The principal's reasons must meet the legal threshold in section 14 of the Education Act 1989 (i.e. gross misconduct, continual disobedience or behaviour risking serious harm)
  • Any other appropriate background information about the student's history, including any pastoral care e.g. additional support, information to show school has worked with parent to address issues, referral to any agencies. This background information must not be confused with the principal's reasons for suspension

Scroll Arrow Icon

© 2018 New Zealand School Trustees Association