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School Rules

New South Wales

This page explains the law about school rules at public schools in New South Wales. If you have any questions about school rules at a private school, please send us a Lawmail and include the name of your school.

How can I find out what my school rules are?

Q: Hi, my name is Samantha and I am about to start a new school in New South Wales. Is there a way to find out what the rules will be at my new school?

A: Hi Samantha. The school rules should be made available for students and parents to access. All schools are given some advice from the NSW Department of Education & Communities policies, but each school can make their own rules. Rules can be added to or changed. If there’s any changes to the rules, students and parents should get an updated version of the rules. 

Schools usually include their policies (like the Student Welfare Policy if it’s a state school) on the school website or sometimes in the school diary. You may also find them posted on notice boards around the school or in the office. If you can’t find your school’s rules and policies on the school website, the best way to find out about the rules is to ask the school office for a copy of them.  You can ask the principal if you have trouble getting them from the office.  

What can my school make rules about?

Q: Hi, my name is Tina. Today at school I was in the computer lab during class. I had finished all the work that the teacher set so I decided to check my Facebook. When the teacher saw she gave me a detention even though I had finished my work and I wasn’t doing anything inappropriate. The teacher said that Facebook was against school rules. Is this the kind of thing my school can make rules about? What exactly can my school make rules about?

A: Hi Tina. Yes, schools are allowed to make rules about what you do during school hours and on school grounds. All students are required to follow school rules and behaviour policies. If your school has special rules about not using social media (like Facebook) or accessing specific websites on school grounds and during school time, you will have to follow these rules.

Schools can make rules on lots of things relating to you at school. These rules are to ensure that you and other students are safe, are supplied with a positive learning environment and also to help the school run smoothly.  The school can make reasonable rules on things like uniform, behaviour (in class and during recess/lunch), bullying, attendance, homework and punishment (including detention, suspension and expulsion). The school can reasonably enforce its rules applying to students on their way to and from school, as well as at any school-endorsed activities.  

There are limits on what rules the school can make. 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.  For example a NSW school cannot make a rule that would treat girls differently to boys or a rule that would allow physical punishment like hitting or smacking.  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, however, schools generally cannot control what students do outside school hours and outside school grounds.

If you are not happy with rules at your school and still have some more questions please send us a Lawmail and we can provide you with advice and information specific to your situation.

If a rule is unfair or I think I’ve been treated unfairly how can I challenge the school rules?

Q: Hey, my name is James. Over the summer holidays, I got my ear pierced but when I went back to school  my year coordinator told me I’d be suspended unless I took it out! It’s so unfair that the girls at my school can wear earrings, but I can’t wear a little stud in one ear. Can I do something to get the rule changed?

A: Hi James. Your 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 (such as fellow students, parents or a sympathetic teacher) to see if they think a particular rule is unfair and should be changed. It would be a good idea to write down why you think the rule is unfair. You can then try speaking to the school council or principal, using a student representative, to explain your view.

If after meeting with the school you still feel that you have been treated unfairly you can make a complaint to the Department of Education and Communities,  to the NSW Ombudsman  or to the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW. You can also request documents and reasons for the school’s decision if it is a government school.  Before doing this it would be a good idea to send us a Lawmail outlining the details of your complaint. We can then provide you with information on how to best resolve the problem.

If you have a question about school rules that we haven’t answered here please send us a Lawmail.

This page was last updated 13 March 2015.


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