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  • The OIA and school boards of trustees

    Official information
    This guide sets out the key ‘need to know’ information about the obligations of school boards of trustees under the OIA. It also explains the Ombudsman’s role in relation to complaints about OIA requests.
  • Declined request for dispensation regarding school Transport Entitlement Zone

    Case notes
    A family asked the Board of Trustees (the Board) of School A for dispensation to allow their child to access bus services to attend School B.
  • Training Institution fails to adequately address a complaint about its course

    Case notes
    Whether a training institution failed to address a complaint made by a student—Ombudsman found the institution’s appeals and complaints processes to have been inadequate—the institution accepted the finding and agreed to re-hear the appeal and then refunded the complainant’s course fees in resolution of the complaint
  • Investigation into Ministry of Education's management of OIA requests about proposed school closures

    Systemic investigations
    This is the report on my investigation under section 13(3) of the Ombudsmen Act into aspects of the Ministry of Education’s management of official information requests about the proposed closure of schools in Christchurch.
  • Complaints arising out of bullying at Hutt Valley High School in December 2007

    Systemic investigations
    This is a report on an investigation into a series of violent incidents that occurred at Hutt Valley High School in December 2007. The incidents attracted considerable media attention and led to wider studies of bullying in schools by the Commissioner for Children and the Human Rights Commission.
  • Report on a complaint against the Southern Institute of Technology by six former students

    Systemic investigations
    In December 2002 I received a complaint by six former students of the Southern Institute of Technology, (the Institute), who in 1999 had been enrolled in the National Certificate in Social Services programme conducted by it.
  • Technical Institute required to amend student records when course cancelled

    Case notes
    Students enrolled in a two stage course to obtain a Certificate of Security were informed the second half was cancelled shortly before it was to commence—Technical Institute explored various options including notifying on the relevant academic records that students had ‘withdrawn’—students complained notation, course cancellation and lack of certification was unreasonable—Institute explained to Ombudsman that certificate registration was in train, the timing of the tutor’s resignation left it with few options but it was willing to explore these with students—Institute acknowledged it cancelled the course but current system did not have ‘cancellation of course’ as an option—Institute willing to review system and remove course from student records—Ombudsman satisfied that Institute acted reasonably to provide students with other options, certificates forthcoming and removing course from records would resolve complaint
  • School Board of Trustees and Principal’s decision to suspend student not consistent with principles of natural justice

    Case notes
    Suspended student’s parents complained about the conduct of his suspension—Ombudsman’s jurisdiction confined to the process followed by the Board—parties disputed duration of Principal’s interview with student, ability of Principal to contact parents about suspension and comments allegedly made to the student by the Principal during the interview—Ombudsman’s investigation unable to resolve these issues and no determination as to reasonableness of Board’s actions able to be made—Ombudsman satisfied that Principal’s request for student to write down his account of incident in accordance with principles of natural justice—however Ombudsman found Board acted unreasonably by dismissing parents’ concerns about Principal’s decision to interview student in absence of parents—Board acknowledged Principal’s decision not consistent with principles of natural justice and agreed to review its ‘Interviewing of Students’ policy—no formal recommendation made
  • Board of Trustees fails to follow principles of natural justice at disciplinary hearing for expelled student

    Case notes
    Student excluded after initially caught hiding stolen property—at the disciplinary hearing the exclusion decision not based on this incident due to lack of evidence but on history of misdemeanours—parents complained that due process had not been followed in disciplinary process—Ombudsman found that at the disciplinary hearing by school the student had no reasonable indication that the student would be answering to an allegation of continual disobedience—complaint about Board of Trustees’ process sustained and Ombudsman recommended apology, reinstatement of student, and removal of exclusion from student’s records—the Board refused to act on recommendations although the student reinstated for other reasons
  • Ministry of Education reimburses overcharged rental on school owned house

    Case notes
    Tenants renting house from Board of Trustees paid $35 per week more than permitted by the Ministry of Education guidelines and tenants sought reimbursement from the Ministry—the Ministry refused but Ombudsman found the Board was acting as Ministry’s agent and it had been unreasonable for the Ministry to decline reimbursement—the Ombudsman recommended that tenants be fully reimbursed
  • University Appointment processes should provide better information to applicants

    Case notes
    Unsuccessful applicant for a senior university appointment—alleged procedural unfairness—lack of clarity about processes and rights of appeal
  • University Council cannot exclude public from meetings on basis of members needing ‘free and frank’ discussion

    Case notes
    Exclusion of public from part of meeting—adequacy of grounds for exclusion—free and frank expression of opinion not a sufficient basis to exclude the public—Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, s 48(1)(a)(ii)
  • School Board of Trustees agrees to address significant deficiencies in suspension procedure

    Case notes
    Suspension and expulsion of student where several significant deficiencies were identified in the procedures of the Board’s disciplinary committee led to the Board of Trustees agreeing to review its procedures and apologise to student and family—the Board also amended student’s records to show the suspension decision was invalid—the Board’s willingness to address its deficiencies were notable in this case (Board members were all new to the role)
  • School Board of Trustee and Principal failed to follow disciplinary process; contrary to law

    Case notes
    School Board of Trustees fails to follow statutory criteria for suspension of student (failure to provide guidance and counselling)—suspending a student is a serious step requiring careful consideration—the Ombudsman’s investigation of a wide-ranging complaint by a mother about the manner in which a school had dealt with various aspects of her two sons’ behaviour, culminating in the indefinite suspension of one of her sons, highlighted the need for Principals and Boards of Trustees to familiarise themselves thoroughly with the procedural requirements of s 13 of the Education Act 1989
  • School Boards should record reasons for decisions to suspend

    Case notes
    Suspension from school for marijuana smoking—school procedures provided for suspension for drug use—application of principles of High Court decision in M & R v Palmerston North Boys High School—need for transparency in decision-making—consideration of requirements of s.23 of the Official Information Act 1982
  • Polytechnic and inadequate complaints procedure to deal with sexual harassment complaint—ex gratia payment

    Case notes
    Polytechnic failed to have proper procedures in place to handle complaint from student concerning sexual harassment—Polytech agreed that it had not dealt with the matter with urgency and had an inadequate complaints procedure in place—ex gratia payment was offered to the student for this reason, not because the claims of sexual harassment had been made out, although there was an indication that prima facie a case had been made out that unacceptable behaviour by a tutor had occurred—Polytech apologised, offering ex gratia payment and undertook to improve its complaints handling procedures
  • School Board suspends 14 year old contrary to law

    Case notes
    A 14 year-old boy suspended for an unspecified period—contrary to law—student later allowed back to school twice more—the Board ‘reinstated’ the suspension twice more when the student’s behaviour deteriorated—under the Education Act the Board must specify the period of suspension—as this was not done, the suspension expired after 7 days and therefore, could not be ‘reinstated’ at a later time—the Board agreed to review its suspension and expulsion procedures to bring them in line with the requirements under the Act
  • School Board of Trustees delivers inconsistent punishment to students

    Case notes
    Expulsion—smoking—improper discrimination by Board of Trustees vis-a-vis another pupil— recommendation to delete information from records
  • School Certificate examination scripts released

    Case notes
    The Minister of Education and the Department of Education were asked to release marked School Certificate Examination scripts. All the requests were refused; sections 52 (3), 9 (2)(b) and 27 (1) were relied on. However, this was changed following the Ombudsman's recommendation.