Troubled youth who cause problems in the classroom are being given a second chance instead of being stood down, suspended or expelled.
In one case a student had to return to school during the holidays to complete community work. The Otumoetai College student repaired desks, gardened and completed other general maintenance jobs instead of being stood down for three days.
News of the alternative discipline methods being used by Western Bay secondary schools comes after the country's top Youth Court judge implored school boards to try to keep every child actively involved in education, before resorting to expelling or excluding troubled students.
About a third of the young people who went before a court were not at school, principal Youth Court judge Judge Andrew Becroft said at a board of trustees conference over the weekend.
He said attendance at school was the best outcome for troubled youth, rather than psychological intervention or counselling.
Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell said disciplinary methods such as stand downs and suspensions were invoked when the student behaved with gross misconduct and all other options had been exhausted.
"We have some delightful teens that we'd like to remove from the school but we do everything we can to keep them in school," he said.
"In the event when we do have to stand down a child, we check with the family before we send the kid home for three days where they're on the streets, causing havoc."
He said schools were faced with the dilemma of keeping a disruptive child in school or removing them.
According to the Education Act, every child was entitled to an education but when their actions denied others the right to learn, principals had to make the tough call to enforce disciplinary action, Mr Randell said.
Tauranga family therapist Marjorie Douglas agreed with Judge Becroft's view that keeping kids in school helped keep them out of trouble.
"From my point of view, [keeping them in school] would be a very good idea rather than the alternative, which is to be idle at home and getting into more trouble."
"For these kids to be in the youth justice system means they need help. But don't just keep them in school where they still feel like failures.
"Give them some experience that will keep them occupied and help them find a talent because every person has a talent. Provide some activity or a learning experience that they will feel proud about."
Te Puke High School principal Alan Liddle said Judge Becroft highlighted "a complex and multi-faceted societal problem, which in my opinion needs an appropriate inter-agency approach to be effective".
Otumoetai Intermediate principal Henk Popping said the school focussed on student engagement in learning and in keeping students at school. But his school's success depended on how much support they received from the Ministry of Education and parents and caregivers, to ensure each child's right to an "uninterrupted education in a safe environment" was upheld.
Tauranga Boys' College head Robert Mangan said New Zealand schools did "extremely well" in working to support and engage students with the limited resources available.
"In my opinion Judge Becroft's view is achievable with sufficient resourcing.
"At this point in time, under the present resourcing model, I do not think it is achievable," he said.
The Bay of Plenty Times has requested the figures relating to the number of stand downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions in Western Bay secondary schools under the Official Information Act.
Judge Becroft said participation and being engaged was a huge protective factor for young people.