Student Rights

Free legal help for students, parents & caregivers

Overview: When you can be removed from school

When and how can a student be prevented from attending school?

A student can only be prevented from attending a state or integrated school in one of the following ways:

  • Stand-downs – This is a formal removal of a student from school for a short period, which can be up to 10 days.
  • Suspensions – This is the formal removal of a student from school, usually for longer periods than for stand-downs and usually for more serious types of misbehaviour. The initial decision to suspend the student is made by the principal, and after that the board of trustees must meet to decide what to do about the student. The board can lift the suspension, or extend it with conditions, or exclude or expel the student.
  • Exclusions / expulsions – “Exclusion” is the formal and permanent removal of a student who is under 16, while “expulsion” is the word used if the student is 16 or older. A student can only be excluded or expelled in the most serious cases. When a student is “excluded”, the principal has to try to arrange for them to go to another school, and if the principal can’t do this then the Ministry of Education will help. When a student is “expelled”, the principal and the Ministry don’t have to help them find a new school.
  • Note: Different laws apply to being suspended or expelled from a private school (see “Private schools: Suspensions and expulsions”) and from school boarding hostels (see “What happens if a boarder breaches a hostel rule?”).

    Being kept away on health grounds – The principal can send a student home if they’re not clean enough or if they could have an infectious disease (see “Being sent home on health grounds”).

No. It’s illegal for a school to use some other method to remove you from school for disciplinary reasons, like sending you home without following the proper stand-down or suspension process, or encouraging your parents to voluntarily withdraw you from school (see “Illegal suspensions”).