Student Rights

Free legal help for students, parents & caregivers

When schools can give your information to others

What information can a school pass on if I transfer to a new school?

Education Act 1989, s 77A(2)

Schools are required to collect enrolment information and to pass it on to any school that you transfer to. This includes your academic record. However, schools should consider exactly which information they need to send on, and shouldn’t transfer everything in the your record. For example, it may not be appropriate to forward information about your family circumstances or religious beliefs without first getting your permission.

Can a school give information about a student to government agencies?

Schools usually need a student’s permission before they can give out information to an outside agency or individual.

However, in certain situations schools are legally permitted – and sometimes required – to give out information:

  • Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989, s 66

    Child, Youth and Family – A school must release information relevant to care and protection issues if a Care and Protection Coordinator from Child, Youth and Family requires it to.
  • Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989, ss 15, 16

    Reporting abuse to police or CYF – If any person, including a principal or teacher, believes that a child under 17 has been abused, or is likely to be abused, they can report this to either the police or a social worker from Child, Youth and Family. The person making the report will be completely protected against any privacy complaint.
  • Search and Surveillance Act 2012, s 6

    Orders from the courts – Courts also have the power to order schools to release information. Usually this is done with a search warrant, which authorises the police to obtain documents or other items from the school.

What about giving out information to other people outside the school?

Privacy Act 1993, s 6 (principle 11)

Schools must look after students’ information and not pass it on to anyone outside the school, unless they’re legally required or permitted to do this. Schools can release information if, for example:

  • giving out the information is one of the purposes for which the information was collected in the first place (for example, passing on a student’s academic record to their new school)
  • giving out the information is necessary to enforce the law (for example, giving the police details about a student caught smoking marijuana at school, including the student’s name and address)
  • giving out the information may prevent or lessen a threat to the student’s health or safety or the health or safety of others
  • giving out the information is required or permitted by some Act other than the Privacy Act.