March 2022 – Information request made to schools under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA)

InsideOUT understands a second official information request was recently made to schools in New Zealand relating to rainbow issues. We have prepared some advice as follows to support schools with their obligation to respond to this request while managing their workloads and upholding the privacy and wellbeing of their students.

A response to this request needs to be treated differently to the one in late 2021. Schools’ responses may vary a lot depending on their previous work on rainbow matters.

Some schools may not have done any work in this area and will have no information to provide. For others, they may have had minimal activity to date on rainbow matters, such as a one-off staff professional development session and a policy that names homophobic/transphobic bullying, in which case it could be easy to respond to the request.

However, for many of the schools InsideOUT works with, the journey of rainbow inclusion is a long one that schools may have been working on for years, in a range of different areas. Many schools will have large numbers of rainbow rangatahi they support and might have regular involvement from external organisations. Matters facing rainbow rangatahi don’t typically sit with just one staff member in a school, increasing the challenges in responding to the full request.

In instances like these, responding to this OIA request could be very difficult due to the amount of work it might take to find all the information, and the risks of breaching the privacy of students and whānau.

Schools should consider carefully whether providing any of the information in the request may impact student privacy, particularly in reference to Question 2 asking “what was the scope of their involvement” about external organisations or individual’s support, and question four in the OIA which is as follows:

Have any external groups or organisations advised or been involved in any capacity with any issues with students and/or teachers in regards to sexual orientation and gender identity? What was their involvement? Were the student’s parents aware they were being consulted? What did they advise? Please provide copies of correspondence relating to this.

If you believe it would be difficult to respond to this request, here is a suggested initial response. This is generalised for the situation many schools find themselves in currently, however we encourage you to tailor this to your school.

Advice on how to respond to the request

Kia ora,

Thank you for your request for information. Please accept this as an acknowledgement and response to your request under the Official Information Act 1982.

Our school is currently under considerable pressure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, including significant staff absences. We are concerned that a substantial amount of work would be required to fulfil the entirety of your requests, which may lead us to needing to decline the request under the grounds of Section 18 (f) – that the information requested cannot be made available without substantial collation or research.

Please could you advise on a timeframe you hope to receive a response and provide some further information on the purpose of your request, or narrow this request to help us fully consider it?

Ngā mihi,

We understand schools who have taken the above approach have then been asked just to respond to Question Two, which is as follows:

Please list any external organisation, group, or individual who has advised, consulted on, provided training, or presented to students on the topics of sexual orientation and gender identity. What was the scope of their involvement? What were they paid, if anything?

In this instance we would recommend responding briefly with the key information requested. Some example responses are below of what this could look like, but it will need to be answered individually for each school:

InsideOUT provided a free staff professional development session on Creating Rainbow Inclusive Schools in 2021.

InsideOUT provided a staff professional development session on Creating Rainbow Inclusive Schools in 2021 and were paid $120 for this. InsideOUT also provided our school with their resources for schools (freely available on their website) and met with the school’s rainbow diversity group at no cost. 

When responding to the ‘scope of involvement’ aspect of the question, it is important to consider the privacy of any students or whānau in your school. For example, this might apply if an organisation such as InsideOUT met with young people and whānau in your school, such as a meeting to advocate with a school for how a young person can be supported transitioning at school. In this instance you can utilise either of the following responses – a blanket refusal, or providing a general answer that doesn’t breach privacy.

InsideOUT met with staff to provide free resources and advice to our school on topics related to creating an inclusive school for rainbow rangatahi, as is our legal obligation under the Education and Training Act 2020.

The question ‘What was the scope of their involvement’ is refused under section 9 (2)(a) of the Official Information Act, on the grounds that releasing individually-identifiable information would violate the privacy of a natural person within the scope of the Act.

We hope this information has been useful and encourage any schools looking for further support in responding to this request to contact us at

The following section of guidance was prepared by NZSTA – New Zealand School Trustees Association:

School boards are required to respond to this request. If you have not received it, please check your spam/junk email box.

Here are your first steps:

    • Immediately acknowledge receipt of the information request and the date that it was received
    • Refer the request to the presiding member of the school board. It is the board that is responsible for responding to (making a decision about) an information request under the OIA
    • The board has 20 working days by which to advise its decision on whether or not to release the information requested
    • If necessary, the board can extend the 20 working day deadline provided it does so before the 20th day
    • The board can delegate some responsibilities for dealing with the request to its principal or a delegated committee of the board – the delegation might be to put together any information that is relevant to the board’s response. The board can make its decision to delegate by electronic resolution
    • The starting point when responding to an information request under the OIA is to release the information unless there is a good reason not to do so. For example, that the information requested is, or will soon be, publicly available
    • Some of the questions could be declined depending on the circumstances of your school, using the s9(1) OIA public interest balancing test: does protecting the privacy of students outweigh the public interest in providing this information? This should be considered if there is a risk of individual students being identified in any response
    • Documentation that is released may also need to be redacted using the same interest balancing test.

Where to go for further support:

As you consider your response to this request, please feel free to contact the Office of the Ombudsman which has a useful Guide to processing official information requests or NZSTA governance advice at for further advice.

There is further information on the NZSTA Governance support resources webpage – under the heading “Complaints and information requests” and in the October 2021 edition of STANews.

Contact us at