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Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions

Challenging a suspension, exclusion or expulsion

What can I do if my suspension or exclusion or expulsion was unfair?

If you don’t accept that your suspension or exclusion/expulsion was reasonable, you have a number of options:

Ask the board to reconsider – be clear about exactly why you think the process at the board’s meeting wasn’t fair. To ask for a reconsideration meeting, write a “Request for reconsideration letter” to the chairperson of the board. See “Sample letters”

Education and Training Act 2020, s 821)(a)

Talk to the Ministry of Education- If you’re under 16 and you’ve been excluded, you can contact the local Ministry of Education office, and ask them to lift the exclusion. They can also direct the school to take you back.

Ombudsmen Act 1975, ss 13, 16

Complain to Ombudsmen – If the board refuses your request for a reconsideration meeting, you can complain to the Ombudsmen. This is free and can be done by phone or in writing. The Ombudsmen can’t change the board’s original decision, but they can investigate your complaint. If they find that your complaint is justified (for example, there’s been some breach of process), the Ombudsmen can recommend to the board that it reconsiders its decision. The Ombudsmen’s investigation can take several months and you may need to enrol in another school in the meantime.

Go to court -If you challenge the decision through the courts, you need to apply to the High Court, and you’ll need a lawyer. The court will look at whether the principal and the school board have followed the legal rules properly. The court can’t change the board’s decision, but it can make the board reconsider. This takes a long time and is expensive. You can’t get legal aid for cases involving schools.

Discrimination complaint – You can complain to the Human Rights Commission if you think the board discriminated against you.

Complain to Education Review Office – You can complain to ERO about the way the school runs its disciplinary system. ERO reviews schools about once every three years. ERO can review a school more often if the school’s performance is poor, and there are risks to the education and safety of the students. ERO reports are available to the public.

Advice and support – Contact the Student Rights Service (SRS), YouthLaw or your local Community Law Centre for advice, information and support if you want to challenge the board’s decision. For contact details of all the services listed here see “Where to go for more support” at the end of this guide

What’s the most effective way to challenge a board’s decision?

Asking the board to reconsider is likely to be the fastest and most effective way to change the board’s decision.

This option is especially appropriate if the board didn’t have some important information when it made its decision, or if you have a reasonable argument that the process the board followed was somehow unfair.

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Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

Also available as a book

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