Australian Capital Territory
This page explains the law about school rules at public schools in the Australian Capital Territory.
Q: My name is Jessica. My family recently moved to the ACT and I’ve had to change schools. The school rules are very different to my old school. How do I find out what my new school’s rules are?
A: Hi Jessica. The school rules must be made available for students and parents to access. The ACT Education and Training Directorate give policy advice to schools, but each school is responsible for making their own rules. Most schools have a school handbook or information booklet for parents and students. This is normally given out at the beginning of each year and sets out the school rules.
Rules can be added to or changed. Changes to school rules should be announced at school assemblies, in class or in school circulars/newsletters after appropriate discussion with the wider school community.
School rules are sometimes posted on notice boards outside the school office or around the school. If you would like a copy of the school discipline policy or the school rules, ask at the school office or ask the school principal.
Q: My name is Lenny. I go to a public school in the ACT. I have a part-time job and work starts straight after school. Last week, my school bus was running late, so I had to call work and let them know. My year co-ordinator saw me on my phone and told me off for breaking the school rules. Can the school make rules about this sort of thing?
A: Hi Lenny. No, generally schools cannot control what students do outside school hours and outside school grounds. But a school can make rules about what students do while they are in or near school grounds during school hours and immediately before and after school. Your school is required to provide adequate playground supervision thirty minutes before school, and some schools might also require supervision for after-school hours.
It is the same if the school provides a school bus or other transport. Students remain the responsibility of the school before and during the journey. If the school arranges activities outside school hours, whether at school or somewhere else, the school remains responsible for the student and school rules apply.
Schools can also make reasonable rules about what you can and cannot bring to school, including banning anything that is illegal, dangerous or is likely to cause disruption to the smooth running of the school. Your school rules will tell you when you are allowed to use your mobile phone as well as the type of behaviour expected when going online, including how cyberbullying will be dealt with. You should follow these rules otherwise your phone may be confiscated.
Q: My name is Daniela. At my public school, girls must always wear dresses. We are only allowed to wear pants on sport days. My friends and I think this is unfair and want the option of wearing pants during winter. Is there any way to change the school rules on this?
A: Hi Daniela. Yes, school rules must be fair and must apply to all students. School rules must not discriminate against one group of students in favour of another group.
You can influence school rules by talking to other people to see if they think a particular rule is unfair and should be changed, and then getting a student representative to take up the matter with the school council, the Parents and Citizens’ Association or the school principal.
If you feel you have been treated unfairly, you may have a right to appeal a particular decision and set out your reasons to the principal’s supervisor . If the problem is not solved, you may then appeal to the Chief Executive of the Department of Education and Training. If the matter is very serious and this has greatly affected you, the last point of appeal would be a review of the school’s decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Under the Freedom of Information Act 1989, you may request documents and reasons for the school’s decision.
This page was last updated 2 March 2015.