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Discipline and Punishment


This information will apply to you if you go to a state (or government) school in Queensland. 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.


Can I be punished on a serious matter without my parents being present?

Q: Hi my name is William and I go to school in Queensland. Over the past 2 weeks I have been called into 3 meetings with a number of teachers and my parents weren’t told.  They have said I was rude and swore in these meetings, but I wasn’t. And I didn’t have anyone else there, like my parents, to support me or be a witness for what was happening. The teachers are now threatening to punish me for being ‘rude’. Is there a law that says they can’t do that or interview me without my parents? How can they punish me?

A:  Hi William. The law in Queensland says that your Principal and school (which includes your teachers) can make decisions on what is an appropriate consequence for any discipline issues in the school.

How your teachers can discipline you, and what actions you must have done to receive that punishment should be outlined in your school policy under a heading such as ‘Discipline’ or ‘Unacceptable Behaviour.’  This policy should be made available to you and your parents upon enrolment, and it may even be on your school website.

If you are to receive a detention the school and Principal must talk to your parents about a suitable time and day for the detention, any supervision arrangements and the start and finish time.  

Generally, if the school intends to question a student about a serious matter the principal or teacher will ask the student’s parents to attend the meeting. If you have attended a meeting on your own and there have been several teacher’s present then we think that this is unfair. You are entitled to have a support person. If this has happened we would encourage you to ask your parents to contact the school principal to ask why you weren’t allowed an adult to accompany you.

There is also a new process in Queensland called the ‘Discipline Improvement Plan’ and this aims to encourage your parents becoming involved with your behaviour at school.   This may be a good way to get your parents involved if you are worried that you have no one to support you, plus it involves a discipline plan to respond to any unacceptable behaviour the school claims you may have engaged in.

Queensland has a ‘Community Service Intervention’ which means performing volunteer work in your local community or school.  The school must first gain you and your parents’ consent to give you this option.

As we don’t know the reasons for why your teachers were questioning you please send us another Lawmail with more information so that we can provide you with a more detailed answer.


How long can I be detained in detention for and can I be kept in for all of lunch or after school?

Q: Hi my name is Ally and I go to school in Queensland. My teacher gave me a weekend detention because I said a swear word in class, but that’s not fair because it is out of school time. Can they put me in detention even if it’s not school time? How long do I have to stay for?

A: Hi Ally. The law in Queensland says that your Principal has the power to control student discipline. This means they can keep you in detention after school hours or even on a day that isn’t a school day.  
Your school can use a lot of different consequences to punish you for bad behaviour, such as swearing, and this can include detention on a non-school day or time.  When giving you a detention that is on a non-school day your Principal must talk to your parents about:

  • what is a suitable day and time for the detention;
  • the supervision of your detention;
  • the start and finish time of the detention.

Your school should have a policy for the way in which teachers can give you a detention, this is stated in Queensland law.  If you want to know more about how long your teacher can keep you in detention for after school this policy may explain it. This policy should be made available to you and your parents upon enrolment, and it may even be on your school website.


Can I be punished by the school because my parents haven’t paid the fees?

Q: Hi Lawstuff, my name is Sam and I go to school in Queensland.  My Dad just lost his job and we can’t afford the text books I need for school. My teachers are always giving out detentions for kids who forget to bring their books to class. Will I get in trouble because we can’t afford to buy them?

A: Hi Sam. We’re really sorry to hear about your Dad. Your school can only punish you for what it perceives is required to control student discipline. 

It is very unlikely that not being able to afford your text books will lead to a punishment. Acts that are likely to be punished should be outlined in your school policy which is available to you to view if you are still worried.

The law in Queensland provides a solution for student’s in your position as it allows for the Minister of Education to give you an allowance for your school costs.  This is a system that can give your parents a way to afford any textbooks you may need or other education resources.

If you are punished for not being able to afford your school resources and do not receive financial assistance from your school, then another option may be for you to lodge a complaint. You can read more about making a complaint 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 16 April 2015.


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