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School Rules

South Australia

This page explains the law about school rules at public schools in South Australia. If you have any questions about school rules at a private school,  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 Matthew and I’m at a school in South Australia.. Can you tell me why schools have rules?

A: Hi Matthew. Every school has rules to set out a fair and consistent standard of behaviour for everyone to ensure that students are provided with a safe, supportive and disciplined learning environment. School rules outline the standard of behaviour that the school expects and the students’ rights and responsibilities.
The Department of Education and Child Development requires all South Australian state schools to make their own set of rules in order to provide an environment that is safe, friendly, informative and free from bullying. 

This can be known as the Behaviour Code. Each school can write their own code (usually in conjunction with the broader school community) to reflect the values that the school community wishes to uphold. The Behaviour Code tells staff, students and families what the school’s required code of conduct is and informs students and families how to make a complaint if they think a policy is unfair or if they believe that they’ve been unfairly treated.  The behaviour code will also outline the consequences for not following the code.

Q: Hi my name is Taletha and I attend school in South Australia. I was told off for not following some school rules. I didn’t even know what I was doing was against the school rules. How can I find out what my school rules are?

A: Hi Taletha. Thanks for writing to us. Your school is required to let you know what the school rules are. They can do this in many ways. The rules may be on the school website or in your school diary. They may also be posted on a school noticeboard or in your homeroom classroom. If you can’t find your school rules you can also ask a school staff member at the front office for a copy, your homeroom teacher or your school principal. 

Principals, in consultation with the broader school community (this can include members of the school board, parents and friends association, teachers, students and parents)are responsible for making their school’s rules. The rules can be known as the school behaviour code.

There are some limits on what rules the school can make for their particular school. The 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. The school must make sure that the students and their parents have access to the school behaviour code which is also required to set out the schools expectations of student behaviour and the consequences when that standard of behaviour is not complied with.

The Department of Education and Child Development has developed a set of policies it thinks are appropriate rules for schools across the state. If you are concerned that your school rules are unfair or don’t meet the Department’s policy you can read more about the Department’s guidelines on their website or you can send us a Lawmail with your question.

What can my school make rules about?

Q: Hey, my name is Charlie. I go to school in South Australia. What can my school make rules about?

A: Hi Charlie. Schools can make rules:

  • to ensure that you and other students and staff members are safe at school;
  • to provide a positive and supportive learning environment;
  • to promote an inclusive environment free from harassment and bullying;
  • to ensure the smooth running of the school and administration.

Depending on the school you attend they may have rules specific to your school. Most schools will have policies on:

  • Dress Codes;
  • Behaviour Codes;
  • Internet, Digital Devices and Safety;
  • Detention, Suspension, Exclusion and Expulsion.

Q: Hey, my name is Andrew. Last week I got told off for not wearing the correct colour of pants to sports class. I don’t think this is right. Can my school make rules about uniforms?

A: Hi Andrew. Yes, schools have the right to tell you how to dress.  A school dress code must consider health, safety and decency standards and be practical for a wide range of physical activities and weather conditions.

Things that the school will consider are:

  • The gender of the student;
  • The movement of the student;
  • Culture and religion;
  • The cost of the uniform.

Schools are allowed to make rules that tell a student how to wear their uniform and when they must wear it. These rules can include what the student must wear during school hours, when travelling to and from school and when participating in school activities outside of school hours.

Sometimes there can be good reasons why you aren’t wearing the correct school uniform; say for example, that your parents can’t afford to buy it. If this applies to you (or for any other good reason) you can ask to speak to your principal or ask your parents to speak on your behalf. The school should be able to come to an arrangement to help you. You cannot be suspended, excluded or expelled for not complying with your school’s dress code.  

Q: Hi, my name is Katya. Yesterday a girl in the playground called me something mean. I am hurt by what she said and want to know if there are school rules about students’ behaviour?

A: Hi Katya, I’m sorry to hear this. All schools within SA have to have a behaviour policy for students. Unacceptable behaviour such as bullying, harassment or mental, emotional or physical violence is unacceptable. Rules about behaviour can be found in the school’s Student Behaviour Management Policy or Student Code of Conduct.  
Ask your school office or Principal for a copy of your school policy on behaviour.

If a student breaks the school behaviour rules, there are rules about when a student can be given a detention,  suspension,  exclusion  or expulsion.  This must also be clearly stated in the Student Behaviour Management Policy or Student Code of Conduct.

Q: Hello, my name is Stephen. Yesterday a boy from my class was on his phone, listening to music whilst the teacher was trying to teach. Is the boy breaking any rules?

A: Hi Stephen. Maybe. Depending on your schools behaviour policy the boy may be breaking your schools phone use rules. Schools can make rules about the use of the internet, use of phones or digital devices or the use of computers before, during or after school hours.  Some schools do allow students to listen to music using earphones so long as it doesn’t interfere with the other students learning and is at an appropriate time.

The school policy can also include how you use email, social networking sites and the internet generally. You should be aware that the school will have filters in place and if you use email or the internet in a way that the school deems inappropriate your behaviour will be noticed.

Schools can also develop rules relating to cyber safety whether the use is before, during or after school hours, and whether it takes place on or off site.  To find out more about cyber-safety and school policies  you may want to check out our Lawstuff page on Cyberbullying.

Q: Hi my name is Ashley. Yesterday I got into a fight with a boy in class and he punched me. Can I be thrown out of school because of him?

A: Hi Ashley. I’m sorry to hear you were punched. All South Australian schools are required to protect the safety of all students. If a school officer believes that your behaviour placed another student in danger, or at risk of harm they may decide to discipline you. You have the right to tell your side of the story and it would be a good idea to have a support person (like a parent) with you.

Your school should have a clearly set out policy on the code of conduct or behaviour standard that they require from the students. This policy will also tell you what kind of punishment you should expect for your behaviour and when you can be given a detention, suspension, exclusion and expulsion.

Ashley, as we don’t know all of the details of the argument we can only give you general advice. The principal or teacher that is managing the situation will ask you for your side of the story. The boy that punched you will also be asked for his view of what happened. Other students may be asked what they observed. If the school finds that it was a low key disagreement they may give both boys a detention during their lunch break. The reason for doing so should be clearly explained to your parent or guardian.

For very serious matters the principal can suspend, exclude or expel you from school. However this will need to comply with the conditions of the Behavioural Management Policy and again should be clearly explained to you, your parent or guardian.  If you believe that the decision was unfair you have a right of appeal against an exclusion or expulsion and you should be informed of this by the principal.

If this happens you may want to send us a Lawmail quickly as you only have a few days after the decision to lodge an appeal.
For more information on Suspension and Expulsion refer to this handy pamphlet from the South Australian government, Department of Education and Child Development.

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

A: Hi Zachariah. The school should always be the first point of contact for raising any concerns or complaints. You, a parent or a guardian can raise a complaint or concern directly with the school by organising a meeting. Often, a school is open to finding a solution that takes into consideration any concerns of their students’ families.

You should get a copy of the school behaviour code and any other rules from the office or the school principal. Then:

  • Talk with your friends and fellow students and see if they agree with you that a particular rule or policy is unfair and should be changed;
  • Think through some reasons why you consider the rule is unfair or should be changed, and write down these reasons;
  • Tell the teacher what you consider to be unjust or unfair in a calm and polite manner;
  • Use a peer mediator, member of the Representative Council or a fellow student who you feel comfortable with to talk with your teacher.

If they can’t help you, you might need to get help from your parents or guardians to contact the South Australian Education Complaints Unit. They are available on 1800 677 435 or you can send them an email

Zachariah, 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. If you think that you have been treated unfairly or in a manner different to the other students there are further steps that you can take outside of the school process. This can include making a formal complaint to the Department for Education and Child Development  or to the South Australian Ombudsman . If you believe that you have been treated unfairly or differently you can send us a Lawmail asking for further advice.


If you have a question that we haven’t answered here please send your question to Lawmail.

This page was last updated 19 March 2015.







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