Omission by school board to follow due process before excluding student for gross misconduct
Investigation about school board’s decision to exclude a student under the Education and Training Act 2020 – Ombudsman satisfied student’s conduct met the statutory test for gross misconduct – but decision to exclude was unreasonable as the board did not consider all options and relevant circumstances – Ombudsman also concerned about record-keeping, natural justice and board’s impartiality – board accepted recommendations including an apology.
A student was suspended by the principal on the basis of ‘gross misconduct’ after bringing alcohol to school and sharing it with another student. The other student became intoxicated in front of several classmates. Prior to this incident, there had been various concerns about the student’s behaviour in class including swearing, using their phone, being disruptive, and unexplained absences. The school asked the student to sign a behaviour contract and had spoken to the student’s parents on several occasions. As required by the Education and Training Act 2020, the board met to consider the suspension. The board then excluded the student from school.
The Chief Ombudsman investigated whether the board followed a reasonable process in relation to the suspension hearing, and whether the decision to exclude the student was sound.
The Ombudsman formed the final opinion that the board’s decision to exclude the student was unreasonable, the board chair’s conduct was unreasonable, the board acted contrary to law when it removed the student from the roll, and the board’s response to the parents about the roll issue was unreasonable.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.
Footnotes Sections 80 and 81 of the Education and Training Act 2020.The authority to suspend then exclude a student under 16 years of age was previously found in sections 14 and 15 of the Education Act 1989.