Information and privacy
Schools collecting your information
What information can my school have about me?
Schools can only collect information that’s necessary for a school-related purpose. This would include:
- your academic records from previous schools
- the names and contact details of your parents or guardians
- any family circumstances that might affect your progress – for example, parents having recently separated, or the death of a family member.
What are the school’s responsibilities when it collects information?
When schools collect information from you, they must explain to you:
- the fact that the information is being collected
- why it’s being collected
- who’ll see the information
- where the information will be kept
- whether you are legally required to provide the information
- any consequences if you don’t provide the information
- your right to have access to the information and to ask for it to be corrected.
These things should be explained to you before you give the information or, if that’s not practical, then as soon as possible afterwards.
However, there are some situations when the school doesn’t have to explain those things – for example:
- if you’ve recently given similar information
- if the information is collected for statistical or research purposes and won’t be used in a way that will identify you personally.
Schools storing and protecting your information
What obligations does my school have to protect information about me?
Schools must use reasonable safeguards to prevent students’ information from being lost, misused, or accessed or given out when this isn’t authorised.
For instance, a teacher shouldn’t leave your private information out on their desk unattended because other students or school staff could see it.
What happens to my information if I have left the school?
Schools shouldn’t keep information about that they don’t need. There are legitimate reasons for holding on to some information – for example, state schools are legally required to keep some school records for archival purposes.
The school needs to get your permission if it wants to keep your information to provide references and keep a record of ex-students.
When schools can give your information to others
What information can a school pass on if I go to a new school?
Schools are required to collect enrolment information and to pass it on to any school that you transfer to. This includes your academic record. Schools should think about exactly which information they need to send on and shouldn’t transfer everything in 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 me to the government?
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 sometimes legally required to give out information to government agencies like Oranga Tamariki for Care and Protection situations, reporting abuse to police and for orders from the court.
Can the school give my information to people outside the school?
Yes, in limited situations. Schools must look after your information. They can’t pass it on to anyone outside the school, unless they’re legally required to or allowed to do this. Examples of when school can pass on your information:
- giving your academic record to your new school
- if police need to enforce the law (for example, if a student is caught smoking marijuana at school)
- it prevents of lessens a threat to your health or safety, or the health or safety of others
- it’s required or permitted by some Act other than the Privacy Act.
School counselling and privacy
Can my school guidance counsellor share things I tell them?
No. Anything you tell a school guidance counsellor is confidential – they can’t tell other school staff, or your parents and whānau, unless you agree to certain things being passed on.
There is an exception to this if there are serious issues. The counsellor can pass on information if they reasonably believe that:
- there’s a serious danger in the immediate or foreseeable future, to you or someone else, or
- you’re likely to be harmed or abused (whether physically, sexually or emotionally) or neglected, and you’re under 17.
What can I do if a guidance counsellor shares things I’ve told them?
In these cases, you can complain to the Health and Disability Commissioner, the New Zealand Association of Counsellors, or another professional body the counsellor belongs to.
For more information about how to complain about a counsellor, visit the Association of Counsellors website, www.nzac.org.nz
Complaining about privacy issues
What should I do if I have a problem about privacy?
If you have a concern about a privacy issue, you should contact the school first and speak with the school’s privacy officer. You should tell the school what you would like done to help put the matter right – for example, you might want an apology, or to have inaccurate information corrected.
If you’re not satisfied with the school’s response you can then complain to the Privacy Commissioner, who can decide to investigate. This service is free but may take several months.
For contact details see “Where to go for more support”