Student Rights

Free legal help for students, parents & caregivers

Some key terms


An ombudsman is an independent person appointed by the Governor General to investigate complaints from individuals about actions and decisions of central and local government departments and organisations. These include schools.

A nationwide, free phone service providing information to parents, caregivers and guardians about parents’ and children’s legal rights and obligations in the school system: 0800 499 488.


Chief Executive of the school, responsible for ensuring that teachers are doing their job well and that the children are safe and able to learn.

Principles of natural justice

A set of rules and procedures to follow when dealing with the rights of individuals. Natural justice requires that boards of trustees, principals and staff members be fair when making decisions under the Education Act.

Privacy Commissioner

A person appointed by the Governor General to educate people about the provisions of the Privacy Act 1993 and to investigate complaints about possible breaches of the Privacy Act.

Private Schools

Private schools do not have to teach the New Zealand Curriculum but must follow a learning programme of at least the same quality. Private schools charge fees but also receive some funding from the government.


This term is used in integrated schools and means the person or body of people who have the primary responsibility for determining and supervising the special character of the school.

Restorative Justice Approach

A restorative justice approach aims to repair the harm caused by unjust behaviour. It describes a response to conflict that emphasises dialogue and the agreement of parties through inclusive and cooperative processes.

Special Education, Ministry of Education (GSE)

Specialists employed by the Ministry of Education. They work in teams which focus on early intervention, services for students with ongoing resourcing needs, severe behaviour difficulties and those with a high need for communication support.


Formal removal of a student from school for a specified period. A stand-down can total no more than five days in any term, or 10 days in a school year. Following a stand-down, a student returns automatically to school.

State school

A school that is required to follow the New Zealand Curriculum and is funded by government. In most contexts in this book, this includes integrated schools.


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

Young person/student

These terms have been used loosely to describe someone attending school.


A national Community Law Centre with special expertise in legal matters affecting children and young people.