Responding to online digital incidents involving students

It is important for schools to have a response plan in place and an understanding how legislation, including the Harmful Digital Communications Act, Education Act and Ministry of Education guidelines can support schools’ procedures if an incident occurs.

The key thing for all Fergusson Intermediate staff is to inform SLT immediately and seek advice.

All parents and whanau must be notified about and online incident we become aware of so they can discuss this with their child / children.

Having a plan in place to manage digital incidents is vital, however developing proactive approaches across the school is equally as important when building a positive online culture and engagement with digital technology.

This procedure is aligned with our school ICT Student acceptable use policy and our BYOD policy.


Knowing how to respond and what first steps to take is essential to reducing further harm and minimising distress.

The goal is to ensure the wellbeing and safety of those involved, and to work towards a resolution so that a positive learning environment is maintained. It is important to remember that the focus should be on the behaviours behind the incident and not the technology.

The principles that guide how schools respond to digital incidents are to:

  • minimise student / staff distress or harm
  • maintain student / staff safety
  • focus on the behaviors – not the technology
  • follow school processes regarding student consent and confidentiality

The school’s usual disciplinary or behaviour management practices apply and schools have the authority to act even if the incident has taken place outside of school.


The Ministry of Education have guidelines that outline what actions are appropriate, and what actions are not when gathering evidence or reviewing harmful content involved in an incident.


The Harmful Digital Communications Act (2015) and the new complaints processes can support students and their families/whānau in the event of an incident. It is important to make students aware of potential implications if they are involved with the online bullying or harassment of another person.


We support schools in a number of ways, including:

  • advise on first steps including how to gather evidence
  • help to take down content (if content breaches sites’ Terms and Conditions)
  • provide information about the Harmful Digital Communications Act (2015) and if appropriate – advise in relation to the incident
  • support schools in building proactive approaches to online safety and digital citizenship

Check out our Services to Schools and Kura webpage for more information.