Ensuring school balls and parties are safe
School Balls raise a number of concerns for schools, parents, students and the community at large in relation to alcohol use and student safety. Some schools have decided not to hold balls as a result. Others continue to hold them, and have clear conditions and behaviour requirements for students attending.
It is often the pre and/or after ball functions where problems arise, rather than the ball itself. These are usually organised by student and/or parent groups. Police and health agencies tend to discourage these events.
Take Action Now
- Make sure everyone involved with planning and managing the event is aware of the legal obligations concerning the supply of alcohol to young people, and the risks of supplying alcohol to young people.
- This link includes an advice sheet on School Balls by the Police, and other useful information and links regarding alcohol and schools
- If problems arise from a school ball or associated event use the incident log to record these.
- These can be discussed with the school and/or the Police, Local Council licensing inspector or Public Health unit. These discussions can be aimed at ensuring that planning for any future events is improved or that the school considers whether a school ball will be held in future.
Discuss your concerns
Communicate your concerns to any person/people you believe are responsible.
If you’d like to talk with someone else before you do this connect with our online group, please log in to your facebook account to join.
Where problems with drinking arise, it is important that help for drinking is sought. Please refer to the risky drinking section.
One approach may be to start a conversation with your school or university about what systems are in place to support the provision of screening and brief intervention.
You may want to connect up with the health promotion team at your District Health Board and discuss how your school or university could be linked into any screening and brief intervention services.
Learn more about brief intervention approaches so that you can be an advocate for increasing the use of them, please click here.
Collect your thoughts and facts together
Here are some questions to assist:
- What behaviours are concerning you? What impact are these having on the community, students, school or university?
- Are there particular students and/or other people or groups that are associated with the behaviours? Who are these people and what connection do they have to the school/university?
- Are there particular times or activities that are associated with the problems? How is this affecting the school/university or community?
- Are there particular places/areas that are associated with the problems?
- How is the alcohol being sourced/supplied?
- How long have the problems been occurring, or are the problems new and if so what has changed?
- Are the problems associated with a licensed premises? Do the problems indicate there could be breaches of the licence conditions? Have there been any enforcement issues raised by the regulatory agencies? For more information, click on Licensing.
- Does the school/university have links to the alcohol industry e.g. sponsorships? If so what is the nature of these links?
- Who owns any building/facilities associated with the problems? Who is responsible for their care and maintenance?
- Who are the people who make decisions relating to the school/university – e.g. Board of Trustees, Principal, Vice Chancellor? Who are the people who have responsibilities for student health and well-being – Proctor, student health services, Public Health nurses? Do you have any connections with any of these people?
- Are you aware of any existing policies or programmes aimed at addressing alcohol-related harm?
- Are you aware of others who share your concerns?
- What do you think might improve the behaviour and reduce the risks?
The following information has been directly obtained from the New Zealand Police Information Sheet on school balls:
Advice on school balls
The following advice has been compiled from a range of suggestions from both educators and the New Zealand Police. This is not designed as a definitive list, but as a guide to assist you in your school ball preparations.
School balls themselves are generally very well run. Any problems lie almost exclusively with the pre and after school ball functions.
Supply of alcohol
Schools can discourage the normalisation of alcohol, signalling to students and adults that alcohol is not necessary to have a good time.
However, if alcohol is supplied, schools and parents need to be aware of their obligations under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (2012).
Anyone who supplies alcohol to a person under the age of 18 years commits an offencepunishable by a fine up to $2,000, except if:
- they are the parent or guardian  of the minor; OR
- they believe on reasonable grounds that they have express consent  from the parent or guardian; OR
- the young person is married, in a civil union or living with a de facto partner.
Even in the above exceptions, the alcohol may only be supplied to the minor in a responsible manner, for example by taking steps to supervise consumption, providing food, offering low-alcohol or non-alcoholic drinks, and arranging safe transport.
The law basically superimposes host responsibility onto parents, guardians or those with express consent when supplying alcohol.
For more information, please visit the Ministry of Justice website: http://justice.govt.nz/policy/sale-and-supply-of-alcohol
Before the ball
- Set a final time to gain admission to the ball, and a time before which no one is able to leave. Consider a later end time to discourage students attending after ball functions.
Notify parents of:
- the date, time and location of the school ball
- parental responsibility for safe transport – remind them of students adhering to their drivers licence conditions, and the zero alcohol limit for under 20s
- that anyone who arrives affected by drugs or alcohol will not be admitted, and their parents called for transport home
- policy on pre and after ball functions, and the legal obligations (see below).
Require parents to sign a permission form before ball tickets can be purchased, including:
- names of the student and partner
- contact names and phone numbers to call in an emergency.
- that alcohol and drugs are forbidden
- that anyone found in possession or under the influence of drugs or alcohol will not be admitted or allowed to stay at the ball, and their parents will be called to pick them up
- that they must adhere to drivers licence conditions, and the zero alcohol limit for under 20s.
Pre and After Ball Functions
- We would suggest that you strongly discourage your students and parent communities from holding any pre or after ball functions.
- But if parents do choose to hold pre or after ball functions, remind them of their obligations around responsible supply of alcohol, the requirement for express consent, and the $2,000 maximum penalty that applies.
On the Night
- Entry to the ball should be by official ticket only.
- Have staff greet students and check their sobriety - searching for alcohol at school balls is covered in the Ministry of Education Surrender & Retention of Property guidelines.
- Allocate sufficient staff and parental support to do continual checking of the attendees throughout the course of the ball. Include regular checks of toilet blocks.
- Provide a supervised chill-out zone for any students who arrive intoxicated/under the influence of drugs, where they will wait until parents/guardians collect them.
- Cover all requirements according to your school’s health and safety policies.
- Notify your local Police Station of your intention to hold a school ball, and to discuss your management plans for this event.
- Note that providing security for your school ball is not a function for Police. If you require security services they are available through your local security services agencies.
 A person is a minor’s guardian only if he or she is a guardian by virtue of the Care of Children Act 2004.
 Express consent may include a personal conversation, an email or a text message that you have good reason to believe is genuine. Unless you are certain you have permission from a minor's parent or legal guardian, don't give alcohol to anyone under 18.
 The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 also sets out some other less common exceptions.
 Other factors that the court may take into account when considering whether the supply was in a responsible manner are set out in the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, Section 241(4)
Please visit the Young People section to learn more about supplying alcohol to young people under the Minimum Legal Purchase Age (18 years). In particular, visit the following sections:
- Support young people to be alcohol-free
- Reduce alcohol supply by others
- If consumption occurs - Supervise its use
- Get young people the help they need
Unfortunately, tertiary life is often perceived to be a subculture of alcohol consumption, where drinking is viewed as an intrinsic aspect of university life and a defining feature of being a student. Perceptions of tertiary drinking are well-established prior to attending tertiary study, whereby media images portray student culture as an acceptance towards binge-drinking behaviour.
Young adulthood is an age when hazardous drinking is at its highest. In 2019/20 in New Zealand, more than one-third (36.8%) young adult males aged 18 to 24 years reported hazardous drinking and 27.9% of young adult females.
Studies in New Zealand had found that university students are almost twice as likely to drink more hazardously than their non-student peers (65% vs. 35%). Very hazardous drinking was found to be three times greater (31% vs. 9%). In another New Zealand study, 37% of female students and 39% of male students were found to drink to intoxication at least once per week. Factors associated with University drinking include: lower age, European or Maori ethnicity relative to Asian, Pacific and other ethnicities, living in halls of residences relative to other living arrangements and living in neighbourhoods with high numbers of liquor outlets.
For detailed information on tertiary drinking
Other useful resources
Schools are settings in which young people spend a considerable amount of time. They are settings which have a profound influence on the physical and mental well-being of New Zealand adolescents.
Given drinking typically begins during the secondary school years (with peers playing a huge role in this), the school is an important setting to take action to prevent harm.
The Youth'19 survey found that 22% of students reported binge drinking in the last 4 weeks (28.6% Māori, 12.8% Pacific, 8.4% Asian, 24.3% European). Binge drinking (5 or more drinks on an occasion) increased with age, and prevalence was very high in the 17+ age group (42%). Students living in rural areas (26%) were more likely to binge drink than those in urban areas (19%).
Click below to find out more about:
Experiencing harm reduces the likelihood of finishing school
A high-quality study which followed New Zealand and Australian children over time found that the more alcohol-related harms a young person experienced, the less likely they were to complete high school.
It has also been found that young people who use substances (including alcohol) tend to skip school more often than their peers and leave school earlier than their peers. These outcomes will have devastating effects for the young person’s success in life as well as reduce the ability of our country to reach its full potential.
The role of the school in adolescent drinking
- Low levels of drinking in the school
- Positive peer influences in relation to alcohol (e.g. having peers which abstain or intervene in their friend’s drinking)
- Attachment to school
- Positive teacher, learning and social connectedness
- Early addressing of learning disabilities
- Positive engagement with learning
- Healthy relationships with students and teachers
- Low availability of alcohol through school sources
Click the button below for a full-list of factors that protect young people from alcohol:
As a community, you can be very influential in reducing alcohol use and harm by school students. You can advocate for improvements to the school social environment such as increasing student participation, improving relationships and promoting a positive school ethos. For more ideas on taking action, click here.
For other information, check out the following resources:
It is incredibly common for alcohol to be associated with events. However, alcohol-free events can be just as enjoyable and can assist with creating safer environments for families and young people.
A wonderful resource has been developed by ZEAL to enable young people to organise alcohol-free events. Click below.
Be a responsible host. Things to remember if alcohol is part of your party/event
Make sure you have some areas, drinks and activities that are alcohol-free so the wishes of those who don’t wish to drink are catered for and valued.
Make sure all your guests have a safe ride home with a sober driver or have a place to stay.
Consider the possibility of gate-crashers and have a plan to deal with these.
If you are involved in planning a Large Public event here are some guidelines to assist you and any others.
Report any incidences associated with the event to your local Police and/or local Council. If it was a licensed event ensure your concerns go to the licensing team at your local council.
To make an objection to any future licence applications for this event, please check out how to object to a liquor licence.