Furious parents are threatening principals with legal injunctions if their kids are overlooked for sports teams and school musicals.
The increased threats have forced the Government, principals and Crown Law to work together to draw up legal advice for schools faced by parents hiring lawyers.
It follows several high-profile injunctions lodged against schools - including in March against Christchurch's prestigious St Bede's College over the dropping of two rowers.
And today the Herald on Sunday can also reveal:
• Some schools have delayed naming First XVs due to legal threats from parents upset over selections;
• Parents have sought legal advice after their kids failed to land lead roles in school musicals;
• Lawyers have been called in after children missed spots in representative debating teams;
• Schools other than St Bede's College have received legal threats from parents upset over rowing crews.
Secondary Principals' Association executive member Patrick Walsh was concerned the injunctions and other legal threats were edging "dangerously close" to undermining the authority of the country's principals to manage their schools.
"We are aware of principals who contact SPANZ to say they are threatened with legal action and now they've got the St Bedes' case that appears to support [a parent's] right to seek injunctions on matters related to co-curricular activities where that hasn't happened before."
Walsh said a legal Pandora's box had been opened after a judge forced St Bede's College to reinstate two teen rowers dropped from its team ahead of the Maadi Cup in March.
Jack Bell and Jordan Kennedy were initially stood down by the Christchurch school after breaching security at Auckland Airport. In the aftermath, Stephen Spencer resigned as a trustee of the school. Two of its rowing coaches also quit.
Walsh said the St Bede's College case provided a precedent for parents as education became "high stakes", especially for students who had top-level aspirations.
"[The parents'] view is being selected for the First XV, school musicals or top debating team provides a platform and career opportunities, where if they miss out it may adversely affect opportunities."
Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said Crown Law was drafting legal submissions for school boards to use when challenged - particularly as disputes could escalate so quickly.
Walsh said courts had previously allowed principals and trustees to make decisions in schools because they accepted boards were elected representatives of the community.
But the St Bede's College case meant courts were entering new territory and potentially second-guessing how schools were managed.