Student Rights

Free legal help for students, parents & caregivers

Teachers and staff

What gives teachers the right to discipline their students?

Education Act 1989, s 75

The Education Act gives a board of trustees complete discretion to control and manage the school, so long as they act consistently with the Act and other New Zealand law. This means that boards have the authority to make reasonable rules, and the teachers they employ can exercise reasonable disciplinary powers and enforce these rules.

How can I make a complaint about my child’s teacher?

If you’re having a problem with a teacher, it’s usually best to start by talking to them directly.

If that doesn’t resolve things, or if you can’t speak to them for some reason, the next step is to talk to the principal. If you’re still unhappy with how it’s being handled, you can go to the school’s board of trustees. You can get the details of the chairperson from the school office, and write to them confidentially. If you like, you can ask to be present at the meeting where your issue is discussed.

Can I take my complaint any further?

Yes, in some circumstances you can make a complaint to the Education Council (formerly the Teacher’s Council). You can do this if:

  • You think the board of trustees won’t be able to deal with your issue because of a conflict of interest (for example, if the principal is married to the teacher you want to complain about)
  • You have already complained to the principal or board, but you’re not satisfied with the way they dealt with your complaint
  • The complaint is about a teacher who has left the school
  • There are other exceptional circumstances (for example, where the complaint is about incidents involving children who did not attend the teacher’s school, or where there is possible criminal offending).

The Education Council is responsible for investigating the competence and conduct of teachers. Competence is about whether the teacher meets the criteria to do their job, and is an employment issue. Conduct is about behaviour that is unsafe. Serious misconduct includes things like physically abusing students, inappropriate relationships, neglect and fraud.

To make a complaint, you need to fill out their complaint form. You can find this on their website at

Some important things to note:

  • If you haven’t taken your complaint to the board of trustees first, the Education Council is likely to refer the matter back to them
  • You must provide your name on the complaint form – you can’t make an anonymous complaint
  • The teacher will be given a chance to respond to any accusations you make.