Got a question? Ask Lawmail

Send your questions to Lawmail

Can't find the info you are looking for?Got a problem you can’t solve?

If you're under 25, or an adult asking on behalf of a person under 18, you can send your questions to Lawmail and we will email an answer to you in under 10 days. Urgent matters are dealt with more quickly.

Go to Lawmail. It’s free and confidential.

All donations over $2 are tax deductible.

Suspensions and Expulsions

New South Wales      

The rules on suspensions and expulsions are different depending on whether you go to a public government school or a private school.     This page only applies if you go to a public school in New South Wales. If you attend a private, independent or Catholic school please send us a Lawmail with your question.                                   

Every Australian child has a right to education. This means your school cannot suspend or expel you without very good reasons and a clear process. It also means your school must act fairly if they are planning on suspending or expelling you from school. If you think you are being unfairly punished, you may be able to appeal the decision. 

Suspension

Suspension is when the school asks you to leave school for a short time.  

 

What can you be suspended for? 

Short suspensions

You can be given a short suspension for a maximum of 4 school days if you:  

  • Continually disobey your teachers – this can include constantly disrupting other students, smoking repeatedly, drinking, refusing to follow instructions 
  • Show aggressive behaviour – this can include behaviour towards other students and staff, damage to any property, and also bullying and cyberbullying by Facebook, Twitter, SMS,  text and other technologies.

Long suspensions 

You may be given a long suspension which is a maximum of 20 school days if your school has tried short suspensions or your behaviour is so serious that it warrants a long detention straight away. The kinds of things you would get a long suspension for include: 

  • Use or have a prohibited weapon like a knife or gun.
  • Are physically violent in a way which seriously affects the safety or wellbeing of students or staff (including sexual or indecent assault)
  • Have committed serious criminal activity related to the school, for example damaging school property or other staff and student property. 
  • Using a non-dangerous item as a weapon (for example scissors)
  • Persistent or serious misbehaviour.  This is a very broad category, but it definitely includes deliberate bullying and harassment, repeatedly not following school rules, making threats, or threatening to use a weapon. 

What process does the school have to follow?

1. Consider your situation and other alternatives

Unless you have been given an immediate suspension (see below for details about this), you should only be suspended if your school has already tried to other actions to improve your behaviour (like detentions), and they have met with your parents and provided support to you to try and help you to improve your behaviour. Also, you shouldn’t be suspended if you haven’t received a formal caution before.  

Before deciding to suspend you, the school has to consider your age, needs and any disability or developmental problem that you might have. The school also can take into account the safety, care, and welfare of other students. 

2. Give you a chance to explain your side of the story

Before deciding to suspend you, the school also has to hold a formal meeting with you where they will explain the behaviour and evidence they have, and give you a chance to explain and respond to what they say. 

Also, if the school suspends you, the school will tell your parents and send a notice to them. This letter will explain the reasons and time for your suspension, any also the process for appealing the decision. The school should also send your parents a copy of the Suspension Procedures and a copy of your school discipline code.    

3. Before you go back to school

If the school does suspend you, they have to organise a special meeting called a Suspension Resolution Meeting. This is a meeting with you, your parents and school staff to talk about why you were suspended and to work out ways to get you back to school as soon as possible and hep you improve your behaviour. If you have been given a long suspension you may be referred to see the school counsellor. 

 

Immediate Suspension

Your school has to suspend you from school immediately if: 

  • You become physically violent 
  • Have a gun, knife or other prohibited weapon;
  • Use, supply or have an illegal or restricted substance like drugs or someone else’s medication (but not alcohol or tobacco)
  • Are involved in vary serious criminal activity related to your school.

Please send us a Lawmail if you have been give an immediate suspension and you would like information or assistance. 

Even if you are suspended immediately, you must be treated fairly at all times. 

 

Can you appeal a suspension?

You have a right to appeal against the decision to suspend you from school if you think that the decision was unfair or the school didn't follow the correct procedures.  It’s very important that you make an appeal as soon as possible after you find out that you have been suspended.  

The way you appeal is to send a form and letter to the Director of Public Schools New South Wales.  You can find the form on page 28 of the Procedures Guide.

It’s important in your appeal to explain what in particular you think is unfair, or which rules the school didn’t follow in deciding to suspend you.

If your appeal is not successful, you can appeal to the Executive Director of Public Schools New South Wales.  You can use the form on page 28 of the Procedures Guide.

Once you send your appeal, you will have to wait up to 20 school days for the Department to decide whether to suspend you. 

If you need help appealing, you can contact the Local Department of Education Office.  You can find the contact details of your local office by typing in your school name at this website or by asking your principal for the details.

 

Expulsion 

Expulsion is when you are asked to leave school permanently.   Expulsion is normally given to you as a last resort, for example after you have already been given warnings and suspensions.   

What can you be expelled for ?

You can be expelled from your school by your Principal at any age if you seriously misbehave. 

If you are over 17 years of age you can be expelled from your school by your Principal if you are not committed to your studies and your behaviour at school badly affects other people.  

How does the process for expelling me work?  What does the school have to do first?

Unless there has been an extremely serious incident, before you can be expelled from your school  the Principal must:  

  • Interview you. At this interview the Principal must tell you exactly why you may be expelled and you must be given the chance to give your side of the story. You  must be allowed to have  some-one with you at the interview; and
  • Send a letter to you and your parents  advising  that you may be expelled and giving the reasons why;
  • Put you on long suspension while the decision is being made about expelling you; and
  • Obtain a report about you from the School Counsellor  which must  be taken into  consideration in deciding whether to expel you; and
  • Give your parents  a copy of all the information the Principal  is looking at  in making the decision  whether or not to expel  you; and
  • Allow you and your parents  7 school days to reply to this information; and
  • Talk to you and your parents about what expulsion will mean for you; and
  • Tell you and your parents how to appeal against a decision to expel you.

If the Principal expels you, the Principal must:  

  • Write to you and your parents advising that you have been expelled from your school and that you have the right to appeal this decision.
  • The Principal must organise another learning program or school for you within 10 school days of your being expelled

If your behaviour has been so extreme, you may be banned from going to any other public school in New South Wales. 

Expulsion if you are over 17 years of age and not working properly at school.

If you’re over 17 years and you’re consistently not working properly at school, you can be expelled after you have had 1 written warning. The school must also tell your parents in writing that you may be expelled, give you and your parents 7 days to respond, take into account anything you or your parents say in response and discuss your rights to appeal the decision.    

If you are in this situation, please send us a Lawmail and we can give you some advice about what to do next. 

Can you go back to the same school after being expelled?

You can only go back to the same school if the Executive Director gives his approval.  

If your behaviour has been extremely bad the Principal can recommend that you are not to be re-admitted to any government school.  

What if you disagree with the expulsion? 

You have a right to appeal against the decision to expel you from school if you think that the decision was unfair or the school didn’t follow the correct procedures.   It’s very important that you make an appeal as soon as possible after you find out that you have been expelled.  

The way you appeal is to send a form and letter to the Director of Public Schools New South Wales.  You can find the form here.

It’s important in your appeal to explain what in particular you think is unfair, or which rules the school didn’t follow in deciding to expel you.

If your appeal is not successful, you can appeal to the Executive Director of Public Schools New South Wales.  You can use the form here.

Once you send your appeal, you will have to wait up to 20 school days for the Department to decide whether to expel you. 

If you need help appealing, you can contact the Local Department of Education Office.  You can find the contact details of your local office by typing in your school name at this website or by asking your principal for the details.  

What if you think you have been discriminated against?

Click here for more information about discrimination at school

What will a suspension or expulsion mean for my future? 

  • Your suspension will be recorded in your school’s register.  However, information about your suspension or expulsion is not public information as your personal information is protected by privacy legislation. 
  • You may be expelled from your school and in serious cases of bad behaviour and the Minister may refuse your admission to any government school.  
  • If you want to enrol in TAFE, you must let them know if you were suspended or expelled for violent behaviour. They will then decide if you are a current risk to the safety of any person within TAFE NSW. 

You have a right to be heard

Remember, throughout the suspension or expulsion process, you have the right to be heard.  This means you have:

  • The right to know why you are being punished
  • The right to know the way the decision will be made
  • The right to know the problems and any other information which will be used to decide the decision
  • The right to respond to any allegations against you.

For more information and help

If you have been suspended or expelled from school, you should get advice about your rights as soon as possible. You need to act quickly to ensure that you minimise as much as possible any disruption or break in your education. 

Please send us a Lawmail as soon as you find out so that we can advise you of what to do next. 

You can also read the New South Wales government’s short brochure on suspensions and expulsions here and their full policy here.

Finally, if you are finding that being out of school is very difficult and stressful and you are feeling a bit down you can call Kids Helpline or check them out here. The Helpline is free and you don’t have to tell them who you are. You can also call them for free on 1800 55 1800.   

If you have a question that we haven't answered here please send us a Lawmail


This page was last updated 12 March 2015. 

 

Case Studies - NSW Public Schools

WHEN CAN I BE SUSPENDED?
 
During School

Q: Hi my name is Oliver and I go to public school. Lately I’ve been wearing a necklace with some explicit language on it. The teacher has asked me to take it off a few times, and even sent me to the principal, but I don’t think I should have to take it off. Now they’re threatening to suspend me. Is the school allowed to suspend me for dress code stuff?

A: Hi Oliver. In general, students can be suspended for a number of things. It’s usually up to the principal to decide when suspension is the right punishment, although the principal does have some rules he or she has to follow.

For example, there are some times when the principal must suspend students:

  • When students are physically violent, when that violence threatens the safety of other students or teachers;
  • When students have weapons, including knives or guns;
  • When students have, use, or give someone else drugs (not tobacco or alcohol);
  • When students commit a crime related to the school.


Beyond the list above, which require suspension, the principal can suspend a student for “continued disobedience” and “aggressive behavior.”

Continued disobedience means that a student has broken the school discipline rules. Examples include refusing to obey staff instructions, disrupting other students, and using alcohol or tobacco.

Aggressive behavior means hostile, or mean, behavior toward other students, teachers, or school staff. Examples include damaging school or student property, bullying (including cyberbullying), and yelling at, or making fun of, other students and school staff. 

In general, before suspending a student for continued disobedience or aggressive behavior, the principal must consider other punishments (such as detention).  However, the principal can suspend you without trying other punishments when he or she decides it’s in the interest of school safety. 

In order to say whether the school can suspend you for wearing your necklace, we might need more information. Each school has its own school rules, which would include what you can and can’t wear to school. You can’t be suspended for not wearing your uniform,  but you can be suspended for refusing to listen to your teachers (it counts as continued disobedience). As your behavior doesn’t seem like it puts school safety at risk, the principal would need to consider other punishments before suspending you though. We’d need to know if you’ve had any other punishments because of your necklace, such as detentions, or meetings, or written notices. If you would like further information please send us a Lawmail.

Outside of School

Q: Hi my name is Phoebe and I go to public school. The other day, when I was home, I posted something mean about a classmate on Instagram. The school found out, and they suspended me. Are they allowed to do that?

A: Hi Phoebe. The school is allowed to suspend you for some things you do outside of school. They can suspend you when you’re on the way to, or from, school. Also, when you’re away from school, but doing activities sponsored (or supported) by the school, you can be suspended.

And, finally, the school can suspend you for things you do outside of school when that action is clearly related to school. For example, using technology (email, text, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc) to bully or harass another student or a teacher about school could count as related to school, and the school could probably punish you.

That said, the school generally needs to consider other punishments before it suspends you.  So, while the school is allowed to punish you for posting that comment on Instagram if this was your first time getting in trouble for this kind of behavior, the school probably wasn’t allowed to suspend you without considering other punishments first.

WHAT KIND OF PROCESS DOES THE SCHOOL HAVE TO FOLLOW WHEN IT SUSPENDS ME?

Q: Hi my name is Callum. The other day I was suspended from my public school after I yelled at a teacher. But, the principal never let me explain my side of the story. Is it fair for the school to suspend me without letting me explain myself first?

A:  Hi Callum. There are a few things a public school and principal must do before they suspend a student.

First, the principal must meet with you to let you know exactly why she or he is considering suspending you, and he or she must let you respond to this information. The principal has to consider your response when he or she is deciding whether to suspend you.

After your meeting, if the principal still decides to suspend you, then he or she has to immediately let your parents know verbally that you will be suspended. Then, he or she has to send written notice to your parents within 24 hours, letting them know the date and length of the suspension, the reasons for it, and the way for your parents to argue against the suspension if they want to.

Then, once you and your parents have been told about your suspension and the reasons for it, the principal must schedule a meeting with your parents to talk about how to fix the problems that lead to your suspension. Depending on how the meeting goes, it’s possible that your suspension could be shortened.  It depends how the talk goes.

If your principal fails to follow any of these rules, then he’s violated the school rules. Callum, you say your principal didn’t sit down and talk with you before suspending you. This would be a violation of the school requirements for suspension.

HOW LONG CAN I BE SUSPENDED?


Q: Hi my name is Paige and I go to public school. The other day me and few other girls were caught doing drugs in the school bathroom. The principal suspended us all for 15 school days. Is he allowed to suspend us for that long?

A: Hi Paige. There are two kinds of school suspensions, short suspensions, and long suspensions.

Short suspensions last between 1-4 days. They happen when a student has not stopped bad behavior after trying other kinds of punishments. Bad behavior that could lead to short suspensions include when students continue to breach school discipline rules, such as refusing to obey school staff, disrupting other students, or using alcohol or tobacco, and when students harass other students or staff – including bullying, harassing in person, via text or email, or online.

Long suspensions can last as long as 20 school days (meaning weekends don’t count in the 20 days). Long suspensions generally happen when a student’s bad behavior continues after her short suspension. In these cases, the principal can, but doesn’t have to, issue a long suspension. When the principal is deciding whether to issue a long suspension, he will consider school safety and the facts and issues in the student’s case before making his decisions.

There are some times when a principal must issue a long suspension. Those times are:

  • When the student is physically violent;
  • When the student used a weapons, including knives or guns;
  • When the student had, used, or gave someone else drugs (excluding tobacco or alcohol), or
  • When the student committed a serious crime related to school.


Paige, in your case, because you said that you took drugs on school grounds, it looks like the principal was required to give you a long suspension. Your 15-day suspension was within the 20-day limit laid out in the rules. The length of your suspension was fair, under the school rules.

WHAT IF I DON’T THINK MY SUSPENSION WAS FAIR?

Q: Hi my name is Cody. I just got suspended from my public school. My parents and I both think it was unfair, and want to do something about it. What can we do?

A: Hi Cody. If you and your parents think that your suspension wasn’t fair, or that the school didn’t follow the Department of Education’s guidelines, then you have a right to appeal (challenge) the school’s decision.

The appeal must be in writing, and say what exactly are your reasons for appealing. The appeal will be made to the Director of the Public School New South Wales, and you can find the form for writing the appeal online in Appendix 4 of Department of Education’s school discipline rules

The Director the Public Schools must get back to you within 20 days of your appeal, but appealing doesn’t mean that your suspension will be put on hold.
 

Case Studies - NSW Private Schools

WHEN CAN I BE SUSPENDED?

Q: Hi my name is Marissa. I talked back to a teacher and my school suspended me. Are they allowed to do that?

A: Hi Marissa. The short answer is: they might be. It’s a hard question to answer more specifically without knowing more about your particular school’s rules. A private school can make rules about clothing or behaviour and your rights if you break them. Your rights will be different from a public school student's rights because private schools do not have to follow the public school guidelines. Instead, when you enrol in a private school, you or your parents sign an enrolment agreement promising to follow the rules the private school has created. The agreement may say that the school can suspend or expel students who do not follow the rules. The school relies on that agreement to enforce its rules.

If you break private school rules, you can be disciplined under the school's policies and enrolment agreement. Discipline can range from a meeting between you, your parents and school staff to detention or even suspension or expulsion.

These rules should all be set out in a written policy. You or your parents should be able to find any policies on your school's website, or be able to request these rules from the school office if you can’t find a copy. 

WHAT RULES DOES THE SCHOOL HAVE TO FOLLOW WHEN IT SUSPENDS ME?

Q: Hi my name is Jesse. My school suspended me for 4 days, but they never told me why. Are they allowed to do that?

A: Hi Jesse. The short answer is: probably not.

If you break private school rules, you can be punished under the school's policies and enrolment agreement. Punishment can range from a meeting between you, your parents and school staff to detention or even suspension or expulsion.

A private school has to create and use policies on the process for disciplining students.  If a private school decides to suspend a student for not following rules, it must follow those policies. Students have a right to “procedural fairness.” This means that you have the right to know why you are being suspended. Also, the school must give you the opportunity to give reasons why you should not be suspended, and the decision should be fair and unbiased. The school should also tell you how to ask for a review of the decision.

WHAT CAN I DO IF I THINK THE SCHOOL WAS UNFAIR TO ME?

Q: Hi my name is Darren. I go to private school. The other day I got suspended for wearing a nose ring, and the school never told me how long I was suspended. I think that I’m allowed to wear a nose ring, and I think that the school has to tell me how long I’m suspended. What can I do?

A: Hi Darren. There are a few things you can do if you think that the school has treated you unfairly.

1. Check the school rules.

We suggest that you ask if your school has a written copy of the rules. The rules should set out what type of behaviour is expected from a student and what disciplinary actions the school may take if a student breaks the rules, including whether the student can be suspended. You need to first check if there’s a rule talking about your conduct (wearing nose rings). Then you need to check how you may be penalised for breaking the rule and the procedures that the school has to follow if they choose to discipline you.

If the school doesn’t have a written copy, you should ask them to clearly write out what the expectations are so that the entire school community will be aware of them.

The school rules should help you figure out whether you’re allowed to wear a nose ring, and when and how the school can suspend you if you don’t.

2. Talk to your principal.

If you are concerned about the rules or if you believe that the school has treated you unfairly, you and your parents or carers can make an appointment to talk about your concerns with your year co-ordinator or the school principal. It would be a good idea to write down your concerns and how you would like the school to address them before the meeting.

3. Speak to the Parents’ Association

If you are not happy with your principal’s response, you and your parents or carers can also raise your concerns with your school’s Parents’ Association or the school Board.

If you have any more questions, please send us a Lawmail. You'll need to tell us the name of your private school. Private schools have different processes and rules than state schools, so if we know the name of the school we will be able to find out better, more specific information to help you.


 

 

***************************************************************************************
  Insert text regarding ALL STATES here.
  You can choose to insert either:
     · Content that directly applies to ALL STATES of Australia.
     · A footnote that will be seen below the existing content of each state.
**************************************************************************************
*