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When Schools Can Make Rules

When schools can make rules

Every school in New Zealand has rules about anything from wearing the correct uniform to not fighting at school.

This section has information about the rules that state schools can make.


Can schools make rules?

Yes, schools have the power under the Education and Training Act 2020 to make rules (also called by-laws) about the control and management of the school. The purpose of the rules is to help the principal and the board run the school smoothly. The board can make rules about most things, if:

  • It’s within their power to do so (called jurisdiction); AND
  • There is no law saying that they can’t make that rule (e.g. making a rule that says your teachers can hit you as a punishment would not be allowed because another law says it’s illegal for teachers to do that).

Before boards can make school rules they need to consult with their students (as appropriate), staff, and the school community. It is up to the board to decide when it is appropriate to consult with students.

When does a school have powers to make rules about what I do?

Schools only have the power to make rules about school matters. However, there are no laws that draw a line between a personal matter and a school matter. The line is even more blurred with the increased use of technology. Some of the indicators of being a school matter are if the incident happens:

  • on school grounds
  • within school hours
  • on a school trip/camp
  • while you are representing the school
  • in school uniform
  • during a school day
  • if they can see what you are doing from school
  • involves a number of students at the school.

The more factors that apply, the more likely it is that the school will say it is reasonable for them to discipline you.

When might the school not have power to make rules or discipline you for something?

If you’re away from school, and nothing you’re doing is linked in any way to school, or to anyone at school, then the school may not have the power to make rules or discipline you. The more distant the activity is from school, the more likely it is that the school shouldn’t be able to discipline you.

There is a possibility that what you do online, in your own time, may become an issue at school (e.g. if you are cyberbullying other students at your school).  However, the law is not clear on this, and whether the school can discipline you will depend on the circumstances.

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