Student Rights

Free legal help for students, parents & caregivers

Exclusions and expulsions

How is being “excluded” different from being “expelled”?

Education Act 1989, ss 15, 17

In both cases you’re permanently removed from your particular school, but “excluded” is the term used if you’re under 16, while “expelled” is used if you’re 16 or older.

There are some important differences, however, in what happens next if you’re “excluded” rather than “expelled”.

What are my rights after I’ve been excluded or expelled?

Education Act 1989, ss 15, 16, 17D

If you’re under 16 and have been excluded from your school, the principal has to try to help you find another school that’s suitable for you and reasonably convenient for where you live. However, other schools can refuse to accept you, and therefore it can be very difficult to find another school. If the principal can’t find one within 10 days, they have to tell the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry can then either lift the exclusion and allow you to go back to your school (if they think this is appropriate), or direct another school to accept you, or direct your parents to enrol you with the correspondence school. However, the Ministry only rarely uses those powers.

Before it can lift the exclusion or direct another school to take you, the Ministry has to consult with you and your parents and with the relevant school board. It can also consult with other people or organisations about your education or welfare if it thinks this is appropriate.

Note: If you’ve been excluded from a school and you’re looking for a new school to go to, other schools can refuse to accept you while you’re currently excluded. However, this doesn’t mean that just because you were once excluded from a school, any other school can continue to refuse you. If you’re excluded from school A, but you’re taken in by school B, then school C can no longer refuse to accept you if you’re otherwise entitled to go there (for example if you’re in school C’s home zone). The only exception is the school that excluded you – they can continue to refuse to accept you indefinitely.

If you’re 16 or older and have been expelled, the principal doesn’t have to help you find another school. However, the Ministry of Education may still decide to help you find one, and can direct a state school to accept you.

Education Act 1989, s 17D

Can the school tell other schools about my suspension or exclusion/expulsion?

Privacy Act 1993, s 6 (principle 7)

Yes. The school will record the details of your suspension or exclusion/expulsion on your file, and the file will be passed on if you transfer to another school.

However, if you think the information is incorrect, the Privacy Act gives you the right to ask for the information to be corrected and, if the school refuses, to have a statement from you attached to the information.