About the case

Just as the Prime Minister announced that New Zealand was closing its borders in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a young international student was suspended for circulating inappropriate and explicit material amongst her classmates. Whilst still on suspension, the same student was caught smoking cannabis at her homestay. The school followed its internal disciplinary process with the student and decided to terminate her placement. For the student, it meant finding a new school in New Zealand or returning to her country of birth.

Because of the uncertainty around COVID-19, the student’s parents decided it was best for her to return home. Logistically this was a nightmare to workout, as the parents no longer resided in the student’s country of birth and the student could not get a visa for the new country her parents were now living in. The student was very stressed during this period. The school provided support by arranging for the student to stay at another homestay while she waited for her visa and flight.

After the student left New Zealand her parents raised concerns around how the school supported the student during the period before her departure. The parents felt that the student was not given a fair opportunity to present a case during the hearing against her and that the school could have done more to support the student. The parents also felt the sanction to terminate the school-placement was very harsh if one were to consider the impact it had on the student during an international pandemic.

In addition, the parents wanted a refund of a portion of the school fees paid, as the student only attended school for a couple of weeks. The school disputed the parent’s view and very soon the dispute escalated with both parties getting lawyers involved.

The parents were advised to refer a dispute to iStudent Complaints.

How we helped

Our first step is always to see if a mutual resolution can be reached. iStudent Complaints arranged to mediate the dispute using an online videoconferencing platform. At mediation, both parties got an opportunity to listen to each other and work together towards a solution. 


With a greater understanding of the needs and interests of the other party, the school and parents were able to reach a settlement which addressed their needs and the matter was closed. The terms of the settlement are confidential between the parties.