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.

Discipline and Punishment

Northern Territory

This information will apply to you if you go to a state (or government) school in the Northern Territory. 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 Saron and I go to school in the Northern Territory. Can I be held back for a detention after school if I will miss the only bus home?

A: Hi Saron. The law says that a teacher can impose a reasonable detention as a form of school discipline during school hours or immediately after school.   The Northern Territory Education Department policy on detentions say that after school detention shouldn’t exceed 30 minutes and parents must be notified if the school plans to place a student in detention after school.

Every public school in Northern Territory is required comply and support the Safe Schools NT Code of Behaviour Policy that sets out the expectations and aims of the school community in relation to student engagement, including strategies to address student behaviour.  Not only must the school comply with the Code of Behaviour they will also have their own set of rules and policies regarding student behaviour. You should be able to get a copy of this from your school’s main office or on the intranet. This policy may have more information about your school's policy on keeping students back after school.

You can read more about school policies in the Northern Territory here.

If you're being kept back after school and that's making you miss the school bus, we encourage you to talk to your parents about this. You (and your parents if you would like them to come with you) can then make an appointment with your teacher to talk about the issue.

If this doesn’t resolve the issue or if you would rather not talk to this teacher, we recommend that you and/or your parents speak with the school principal about your concerns. You could mention that this teacher is keeping you and your classmates back after the bell has rung for no good reason and, as a result, you missed the school bus. You could also tell the principal that the school has a duty to look after you and keep you safe and it is not following this policy if you are made to miss your bus without your parents knowing in advance.

If you’re still not happy with the way the school addresses the issue, or if you believe that the school's rules are different to the Department's guidelines, your parents can make a complaint to the Department's regional office. If you don’t know which office is your regional office, you can ask at your school’s front office. For more information about making a complaint to the Department, please visit this webpage.

Q:  Hi Lawstuff. My name is Thomas and I go to school in the Northern Territory. Can I be made to pick up rubbish as a punishment?

A: Hi Thomas. You have the right to be treated fairly at school however the school is allowed to make reasonable rules and provide the directions for education and discipline within the school.  The school principal is responsible for regulating student behaviour but this has to be reasonable and fair. Teachers have the power to enforce these rules in a reasonable manner - using appropriate discipline and punishment.

If you’re concerned about the way you’ve been punished you may want to ask your school for a copy of its rules and policies. This will enable you to determine if there are any specific school rules and policies which relate to this type of punishment and whether or not your teacher has breached these.

There is no Australian legislation existing which directly regulates the duration of lunch and break periods in schools although you should note that your school is obliged to provide you with a safe and positive educational environment. You are entitled to be treated fairly and with respect and with care for your physical health.

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 if you drop litter in the class or playground, the school can punish you by making you tidy the classroom or collect rubbish. You can be made to clean up your graffiti. Remember, if you treat teachers and other school staff with courtesy and respect, they are more likely to treat you in the same way. If you are concerned about the hygiene of picking up rubbish it may be a good idea to ask for gloves.

Thomas, your school is obliged to have Code of Conduct and a Policy for the Management of Student Behaviour. These policies require your school, and the teachers involved in it, to look after your welfare.  You can find a copy of these guidelines on the NT Department of Education and Training website.

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 16 April 2015.


  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.