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Discipline and Punishment

New South Wales

This information will apply to you if you go to a state (or government) school in New South Wales. If you go to a private or Catholic school, you and your school’s legal rights may be different. For information on discipline and punishment for a private or Catholic school, send us a Lawmail.



Q:  Hi my name is Michel. I go to a school in New South Wales. Can I be given a detention for all of lunch or after school?

A: Hi. Michel. Each school also has its own rules outlining what it can and can’t do. A teacher or the school principal can keep a student back after class or during lunch as punishment for breaking the rules. However, the NSW Department of Education has rules on student wellbeing, safety and discipline.

All public schools have to follow these rules. The rules have to be fair and be good for the student’s wellbeing. While it is not against any law for them to keep you back after school without getting your parents’ prior permission, it's generally better to let parents know so they don't worry about you. You can read more about this here.

Q. Hey my name is Tom and I go to school in New South Wales. What can my school punish me for and what kind of punishment can they give me?

A: Hi Tom. Schools can punish you for a range of things that break school rules, such as misconduct, not completing homework, disobeying instructions, being disruptive in class, not wearing your uniform correctly and so on.  

Every public school in NSW should have a School Discipline Policy; this should be in line with the government’s policy found here.

They can give you a range of punishments, including detentions and school service.  Your school may also choose to suspend or exclude you, please see our Suspension and Expulsion Lawstuff pages for more detail.  

Your punishment should not be unfair or unreasonable. You should not be punished by being made to stand in one position for more than a short period, or by having to do an unpleasant job such as cleaning out the toilets. But the school can punish you by making you clean up the classroom, or collect rubbish. You have a right to be treated fairly by your school and not be harassed or discriminated against.  If you would like to read more about this please see our Lawstuff page ‘Discrimination at School’.


Q. Hi Lawstuff. My name is Sarah. I go to school in New South Wales. Can I get in trouble for something that I did outside of school hours?

A: Hi Sarah. Your school discipline policy may apply outside of school hours and off school premises where there is a clear and close connection between the school and the conduct of students.

This means that schools can make rules and punish you for things that you did while wearing the school uniform, while on the school grounds and while travelling to and from school and it can even include social media use in out of school hours if it relates to the school, teachers or other students.

Sometimes the school may punish you for behaviour that brings the school’s reputation into disrepute however generally schools make rules and punish people because their behaviour has threatened the safety of others or has negatively impacted on other’s ability to learn or teach.


Q: Hi. My name is Xavier and I got to school in rural New South Wales. I was punished by my teacher recently and I think my punishment was unfair.  What can I do about it?

A: Hi Xavier. If you think that a punishment you have received is unfair, you can make a complaint about it. You can ask your parents for help in doing this. You should first talk to the teacher who punished you.

If you are not happy with the result of the conversation, you can then talk to your school principal. If the complaint is about the principal or the principal is unhelpful, you can contact the school education director of your area. You may also like to put your complaint in writing. If you do, be really specific with the details of what the situation was, as well as what you would like the result to be.

You can read more about this here.

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

This page was last updated on 16 April 2015.

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