The Education Amendment Act 1 (the Act) allows for schools to stand-down, suspend, exclude or expel students from a state school. 2 The Act’s purpose is to provide the school with a range of responses when students’ behaviour may result in serious harm or constitute a harmful or dangerous example to others. The intent is to deal with students in a way that is fair and minimises disruption to their learning. Every stand-down, suspension, exclusion and expulsion must be reported to the Ministry of Education. Students under 16 years of age may be removed or excluded from a school indefinitely, whereas if a student over 16 years of age is denied access to the school they are deemed to be expelled. Principals are obliged to arrange for an excluded student to attend another local school where possible.
A principal may also invoke section 27 of the Act and exempt a student from attendance -
These absences must be recorded in the school, but do not have to be reported to the Ministry. Hence, the number of section 27s do not feature in their statistics.
The Ministry states that:
Stand-downs, suspensions, and exclusions help provide indications of where engagement in productive learning may be absent and behavioural issues may be present. Stand-downs, suspensions and exclusions are not measures of student behaviour but measures of a school’s reaction to behaviour. What one school may choose to suspend for another may not. 3
This is also the case for section 27. Some of the schools in this sample respond to some student behaviours using section 27, having few to no stand-downs. Others confine their responses to the more formal stand-downs, suspensions and exclusions. These are discussed in the findings. However, all schools in this investigation use section 27 or stand-downs primarily as invitations to restorative practices, to talk with the family and student to resolve issues rather than use them as punitive measures.