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To help you navigate the legislation you need to know about we’ve provided a brief overview and collated links to the relevant sites to provide you with more in-depth information when you need it.

Some digital incidents may fall under the Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA) and so it’s important that schools and staff are familiar with the Act and understand how they can support students and their families/whānau in the event of online bullying or online harassment.

Consider how you can:

  1. Help students understand the options available to them if they experience challenges, e.g. online bullying or online harassment.
  2. Help students understand the potential implications if they are involved with the online bullying or online harassment of another person.
  3. Proactively plan to foster digital citizenship with students and whānau through the curriculum, wellbeing initiatives, professional learning and community engagement.

School online channels

Under the HDCA, a school can be considered an ‘online content host’ if it controls an online space with content on it. Examples include:

  • school websites
  • Facebook and other social media pages/groups;
  • class blog sites; or
  • other apps that enable users to make comments or add other content e.g. ‘Seesaw’

If harmful content is posted to an online space that is controlled or administered by the school, it may be legally responsible for that content. It is important that schools have clear processes in place for dealing with concerns/ complaints around content that is posted or shared in these spaces. These processes need to clearly communicate how complaints can be made and inform what action, if any, needs to be taken.

We encourage schools to explore different processes (e.g. the HDCA safe-harbour process) to find one that best supports them and fits their needs, and to include this in their current school complaints processes. For more information about the safe- harbour process visit the Ministry of Justice website.

Visit the Netsafe website for more information on the HDCA.

The Privacy Act 2020 controls how personal information is collected, used, disclosed, stored and accessed and Privacy in New Zealand is defined by the 12 privacy principles that are found in the Privacy Act.

Schools including kura must follow these as law, but they are designed to act as a guide to help schools and other agencies make the right decisions around the collection, storage, use and disclosure of private information.

Common issues relating to privacy are usually around content posted by and of schools (including parents posting images or videos of school events) and requests for the removal of student images or videos that are posted on school channels.

Schools should seek permission to use images of students before using them, either on an individual basis or as part of a blanket “license” that parents are asked to sign. This gives parents an opportunity to raise their concerns around the use of images before they are published.

You can seek advice from our helpline team on setting up your school content policies or dealing with complaints related to photos and videos at your school.

Learn more about Privacy from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the Ministry of Education.

It is a basic principle of copyright that the expression of an idea in an original work is legally protected by copyright as soon as it becomes 'recorded in material form' (viewable by others).

In other words, write it down, draw, record, or film it, and the original material is automatically protected by copyright. The author does not have to register the work to claim copyright in New Zealand – the act of putting the idea into a fixed format establishes copyright under The Copyright Act 1994.

Click here to learn more about copyright legislation and how it may apply in New Zealand schools, and to view the guidance around the use of YouTube in the classroom and the relevance of the NZ Copyright Act.

All schools must provide a safe physical and emotional environment for students and staff. There can be instances where schools are considering searching or confiscating student property.

The Ministry of Education’s surrender and retention of property and searches guidelines are designed to help you if you're:

  • faced with a situation where the safety of students, staff or the school is compromised, and
  • you're considering searching or confiscating student property.

The guidelines:

  1. describe the responsibilities of school boards
  2. explain the legislation and processes
  3. address particular issues in detail and outline some scenarios
  4. include a checklist for schools and links to related resources.

The guidelines are intended as a resource to assist principals and boards to deal with situations where the safety of students, staff and school is compromised. Learn more about this from the Ministry of Education.