Acts relevant to rights and responsibilities

When does the manifestation of a student’s religion or belief affect school rules?

The Bill of Rights Act provides for the right of any person to manifest their religion or beliefs through worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community, or in public or in private. 

Section 15 of the Bill of Rights Act – Legislation website

Your school is required to respect students’ rights to manifest their religion in practice and observance. If a board wishes to prevent a pupil wearing an item such as a headscarf, kirpan, crucifix, taonga or Magen David, it will need to establish that the restriction is justified.

Thought should be given to how this could affect school uniform or dress codes when these are developed or reviewed. Requests from students or their families for an exception to a school rule should be carefully considered.

However schools can prevent students from wearing items, or wearing them in a particular manner, in certain circumstances for health and safety or practical reasons, for example, when in technology classes or PE classes. In general, small items of religious significance to a student can be worn beneath their clothing.

Ministry of Education guidelines show boards how to:

  • allow religious instruction in a way that complies with our education laws and human rights laws
  • protects the rights of diverse students and their families and whānau to be free from discrimination based on their religious or non-religious beliefs.

Religious instruction guidelines for primary and intermediate schools

Contact the Human Rights Commission or NZSTA for further advice.

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