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School uniforms

Australian Capital Territory

 If you are under 25 and you are unsure about your rights or responsibilities or what to do next, you can get free, confidential legal advice at Lawmail.

Can my school make me wear a uniform?

What can I do if my parents can’t afford the uniform?

Can my school refuse to allow me to wear items of religious or cultural importance?

Can my school make me wear my school uniform outside school hours and on excursions?

Can my school tell me how long my hair can be or ask me to remove piercings?

 

Can my school make me wear a uniform?

Public schools

Yes, your school can make you wear a particular uniform and clothes if that’s what you school rules say. Your school may also have a specific uniform policy (sometimes called a dress code) which explains what you can wear and what happens if you don’t follow the rules.   

You can ask for a copy of your dress code policy and guidelines from your school’s handbook. You can also check your school website.  Your school must be able to give you a copy of the rules if you ask for them.

Schools generally have the power to take reasonable measures to make sure you follow the dress code. For example, they might give you a detention or you might not be able to participate in a certain activity (like sport). However, a public school in the ACT cannot suspend or expel you for not following the uniform policy.

 

Private schools

If you go to a private school, the rules may be a little different. Private schools can make their own rules about uniforms. When your parents sign an enrolment agreement, they are agreeing that you will wear the right uniform. You should check your school’s rules to find out what the school can do if you don’t follow your school’s rules on uniforms. The rules (and the consequences for breaking them) should be clearly set out in a written policy, be applied in a fair way and comply with anti-discrimination laws.

 

What can I do if my parents can’t afford the uniform?

Public schools

In the ACT, individual schools may be able to support students with uniforms. This is up to the principal to decide if you or your family should be given support to purchase a uniform. Your school may also have a collection of second-hand clothes that are cheaper or free.   The school might also decide to give you more time buy new clothes if your family is having troubles buying them right now. It’s a good idea to meet with the principal and your parents and work out a solution that is fair to everyone.   

If your family has a Centrelink concession card or health care card, the Second Bursary Scheme may help your family with $750 for every student.

 

Can my school refuse to allow me to wear items of religious or cultural importance?

Public schools

Some students may wish to wear things for a religious or cultural reasons, like head coverings, jewellery or a tattoo. The ACT government policy says that public schools in the ACT should make sure that their dress codes can cater to students of all circumstances and backgrounds.   

Your school is not allowed to unreasonably enforce a uniform policy if it discriminates against you based on your religion, ethnicity or cultural background. If you’re having trouble with your school about wearing something of religious or cultural importance, it’s a good idea to talk to the teacher or principal involved. You can also ask a parent to come with you to the meeting.

If that doesn’t work, you may want to make a complaint to the Department of Education. If still that doesn’t work, there are other options, like a complaint to the Ombudsman or the Australian Human Rights Commission or the ACT Human Rights Commission.

 

Can my school make me wear my school uniform outside school hours and on excursions?

If you go to a public school, you have to make sure that you are following the uniform policy during  school hours, while traveling to and from school, and when doing school activities outside of school hours.

 

Can my school tell me how long my hair can be or ask me to remove piercings?

As part of a uniform policy or dress code, schools can make rules about what you can wear in terms of non-clothing items. This includes jewellery, tattoos, piercings, make up and the length, style and colour of your hair. Your school is generally allowed to ban you from wearing these things and you may be punished if you keep wearing them. If you think that the uniform policy is unfair, you might want to try talking to your Principal. You could also speak to the Parents’ Association and see if other parents think the rules are unreasonable. That way you could work with the school to make the rules fairer.   

 

This page was last updated 9 March 2015.

 


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