5.10 Stand Down, Suspension and Exclusion Policy
Rationale of Stand Down, Suspension And Exclusion Procedures
Deciding to stand-down or suspend a student is a response of last resort. These are serious decisions which can have far-reaching consequences for the student (and other members of their family). They should be made only after considering all the implications for the educational future and life chances of the student.
Student behaviour leading a principal to consider stand-down, suspension or exclusion may be a symptom of serious underlying problems that requires the help of other agencies. Communication with parents/caregivers (under section 77 of the Act) will provide the principal with useful information to take into account.
There is an expectation:
All this means that the principal cannot stand-down or suspend a student automatically just because that student has broken a school rule.
The principal must carefully consider the evidence and all the circumstances prevailing at the time, including other factors. For example, the student may be from a different cultural background, or the student's parent/caregivers may not have English as a first language. These factors may be important both in deciding if a stand-down, suspension or exclusion is the proper course of action, and in ensuring that any barriers to understanding the information being provided to the student, parent or caregiver, including language, are removed.
Hamilton Junior High School has a variety of measures available to them to manage students. These include:
stand-downs for short, specified periods (usually 1-4 days)
suspensions for longer periods
exclusion (for students under 16)
The law dealing with this area is found in the Education Act 1989 (in subsequent new sections inserted from 1 July 1999) and the Education (Stand Down, Suspension, Exclusion and Expulsion) Rules 1999.
The purpose of the new sections of the Act are to provide a range of responses for cases of varying degrees of seriousness, and to minimise the disruption to the student’s attendance at school and to facilitate a return to school when and if appropriate.
The principal of Hamilton Junior High School, or in the absence of the principal, a person directed by the Board of Trustees under Section 77(1) of the State Sector Act 1988 to act as principal, are the only persons who can make the decision to stand-down or suspend a student from the school under Section 14(1) of the Education Act 1989.
The principal of Hamilton Junior High School can “stand down” a student for a specified period (usually between one to four days). At the end of the period, the student will return to school where a re-entry meeting will take place between the family and the principal. The principal can lift the stand down before it expires.
A student cannot be stood down for more than five school days in any one term, or for more than 10 days in a school year (in calculating the period of the stand down, the day on which the student was stood down, and any day on which the student would not otherwise have attended school, are not counted).
The principal will notify the Ministry of Education and the parents/caregivers immediately after standing down a student, giving the reason for the decision.
When can a student be stood down?
A student can be stood down only if there has been:
continual disobedience or gross misconduct
the disobedience or misconduct is a harmful or dangerous example to others
where their behaviour is likely to cause serious harm to the student themselves, other students or staff members.
Stand Down Meetings
A student or the parents/caregivers of the student who has been stood down can ask the principal to arrange a stand down meeting. The principal can also arrange a meeting if they wish.
If as a result of the meeting the principal is satisfied that there were no reasonable grounds to stand the student down, the principal must withdraw the stand-down.
A student can also be suspended from school. The initial decision to suspend is made by the principal, but the matter then goes before the Board of Trustees.
The board must meet within seven school days to decide on what action to take or within 10 calendar days if the student is suspended within seven school days of the end of the term.
If the board cannot meet and or make a decision by this time, the suspension will be automatically lifted.
Immediately after suspending a student, the principal must notify the Ministry of Education, the board and the parents/caregivers of the student, the principal must provide a report that states the reasons for the decision.
When can a student be suspended?
The grounds for a suspension are the same as for stand downs.
The student’s rights when stood down or suspended
The student has the right to:
remain on the school register
have the stand down/suspension procedures consistently applied
be given notice of the possible outcomes
know the reason for the stand down/suspension
know all the information (evidence) on which the principal’s decision to suspend was based
be able to comment on/challenge that information
be able to correct adverse or biased material and challenge irrelevant material
have time to prepare a response to the information - therefore the information and the principal’s report is to be in the hands of the student, parents/caregivers at least 48hrs before the board meeting.
be represented at any meeting about the stand-down or suspension
Students, parents/caregivers must be given notice of the suspension meeting
As soon as practicable after the suspension, the board must send the student and the parents/caregivers written notice of the time and place of the meeting.
Within 48 hours of the meeting the board must also give the student and parents, in writing:
notification that the student, parents/caregivers and support people can attend and speak at the meeting.
a copy of the principal’s report to the board on the suspension and any other material that the principal or board will present at the meeting (excluding any parts of the report of the material that the board would have the right to withhold if a Privacy Act request were made for them).
It is also required that the student and parents/caregivers be informed in advance of all grounds for disciplinary action that the board might rely on in making its decision, and that they have a chance to respond.
What will happen at the suspension meeting?
The student, the parents/caregivers and their representatives all have the right to attend the board meeting. The right to have representatives means that the student or parent/caregivers have the right to bring others to the meeting to support or represent them, such as a lawyer, family or whanau members, community workers, kaumatua or kuia.
How the Board will act
The board must act fairly and reasonably. The board will receive the principal's/staff members report and will listen to what the student, parents/caregivers or representatives have to say. The board appointed chairperson will rule whether specific information or material presented by either the principal, staff member, the student, parents/caregivers and representative is relevant in considering the suspension.
The board will decide on the process it will use to arrive at its decision on the outcome of a suspension meeting. However, the principal shall not also be involved in the final decision. The board should make its decision without the recommendation or vote of the principal. The principal will be asked to leave the meeting while the board makes its decision. It the principal stays however, the student and family may also stay.
Any trustee, including the staff representative, who personally knows the student concerned, or who has any other personal association with the circumstances of the suspension should declare this at the outset. It would be usual for that trustee to consider whether there is a potential conflict of interest that might make it appropriate not to take part in the suspension meeting. The board might also consider whether a member’s prior knowledge is likely to unfairly influence the outcome. Cultural or other considerations, however, may mean it is appropriate, under some circumstances, for the trustee to continue to be involved.
The board will only rule in the original charge being brought against the student, any prior history that the student may have cannot be considered except in the case of continual disobedience, if the original information is proved incorrect, the board cannot change the charge to something else.
What action can the Board decide to take?
At the suspension meeting, the board can decide to do any of the following:
Lifting the suspension - with or without conditions
Extending the suspension - the board must impose reasonable conditions aimed at returning the student to school. The extension can be for a reasonable period.
Exclusion (under 16) - If the student is under 16 and the most serious response is justified, the board can exclude the student from the school and require him or her to be enrolled at another school.
In making its decision, the board must consider all the relevant circumstance of the suspension and all the options available to it.
The Education (Stand down, Suspension, Exclusion, and Expulsion) Rules 1999 require that:
the principal must report to the board on the suspension; [Rule 14]; and
the principal’s report, and any other material about the suspension that is to be presented by the principal or board at the suspension meeting, must be made available to the student and parents/caregivers. [Rules 15 (2)(c) and 20 (2)(c).
This meets the requirement that a person is entitled to know the case against them.
Exclusion (students under 16)
Students under 16 are legally required to attend school, and therefore cannot be ‘expelled’. However, the board can decide to permanently ‘exclude’ a student from Hamilton Junior High School, in this case the principal is required to try to find the student another school. Other schools can refuse to enrol the student.
If the principal is unable to arrange another school for the student within 10 days of the board’s decision, the principal must notify the Ministry of Education.
The Ministry of Education can:
arrange for and, if necessary, direct another state school to enrol the student, or
if appropriate, lift the student’s exclusion
direct the parents to enrol the student in correspondence school.
Challenging the school's decision
If the student parents or caregivers are unhappy about a stand down, suspension, or exclusion they have the following possible courses of action:
asking the principal (in case of a stand down) or the board (in the case of a suspension or exclusion) to reverse the decision.
complain to the Ministry of Education or the Education Review Office
complain to the Human Rights Commission if you think the action taken was discriminatory
take legal action through the Court system.
Date of Approval _____________________________________