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School uniforms

South Australia

 If you are under 25 and you are unsure about your rights or responsibilities or what to do next, you can get free, confidential legal advice at Lawmail.


Can my school make me wear a uniform?

Q: Hi my name is Matt and I go to a public school.  My school sent me home for not wearing the right uniform, are they allowed to do that?

A: Hi Matt, the short answer is: no. The law says that a public school in South Australia cannot suspend you, expel you or make you miss out on learning at school just because you haven’t worn the right uniform.   But your school can discipline you if you repeatedly and deliberately continually breach the dress code policy that your school has.   

Things your school could do include giving you a warning, giving you detention, or make you stay in a particular area (for example, if you don’t have your hat on, they can make sure you stay in the shade).

If you have another question that we haven’t answered here, please send us a Lawmail.


What can I do if my parents can’t afford the uniform?

Q: Hi my name is Sally. I have just started at a public high school however there is so many new uniform requirements and my parents can’t afford them all. What can I do? Will I get in trouble?

A: Hi Annabelle. The short answer is you probably will not get in trouble. Schools have to follow the Department of Education’s policy about uniforms.  The policy says that dress codes should be equitable (fair), as cheap as is practical, and should take into account that some families may be financially less advantaged than others and it may be hard for them to afford all of the school clothes.  

You can ask your Principal for an exemption from your school dress code.  The way you do this is to get your parents to write a letter to the Principal asking for an exemption.    You could also arrange a meeting with your parents and the principal to see if you can solve the problem in a way that works for everyone.  Another idea is to ask the Principal for more time to be able to save up to get the uniform.   You might also want to check if you there are any second-hand clothes available from your school. 

If you have another question that we haven’t answered here, please send us a Lawmail.


Can my school refuse to allow me to wear items of religious or cultural importance?

Q: Hi my name is Sarah and I go to a public school. My teacher told me to take off my necklace today which has a small cross on it. This has a special, religious meaning to me and I do not think it is right.  Can the school do this?

A: Hi Sarah, the short answer is probably not. In South Australia, schools should make sure that dress codes are non-discriminatory.   The dress code must also consider the values of students and parents of other cultural backgrounds.

If you’re having trouble with your school about wearing something of religious or cultural importance, your parents can ask for an exception by writing to the Principal. You can also meet with the principal with your parents to discuss the situation. Also, your school is not allowed to unreasonably enforce a uniform policy if it discriminates against you based on your religion, ethnicity or cultural background.    

If still that doesn’t work, there are other options, like a complaint to the Department of Education, and human rights departments like the Australian Human Rights Commission or the SA Equal Opportunity Commission.  If you want more information about how to make a complaint, please send us a Lawmail.


Can my school make me wear my school uniform outside school hours and on excursions?

Q: My name is Sam. My teacher got me in trouble because I wasn’t wearing our school hat on the train station on my way home from school. Is she allowed to do that?

A: Hi Sam. That’s a great question. The answer is probably yes, the school can do this. It depends what your school rules or uniform policy say. It’s a good idea to check your school rules. You can ask your school office for a copy of these if you don’t have them.  

Generally schools can make rules about what you wear when you’re representing the school, for example on sport on the weekends or when you’re on excursions.   

If you have another question that we haven’t answered here, please send us a Lawmail.


Can my school tell me how long my hair can be or ask me to remove piercings?

Q: Hi my name is Wally and I go to a private school. I was sent home because my hair was too long and was told to remove my nose piercing before I left. My long hair is special to me and I do not want to cut it. Are they allowed to do that?

A: Hi Wally. The short answer is probably yes, the school can make these rules.

Generally private schools can set their own rules (as long as they are reasonable and not harmful to students) and can discipline students for not following them. The school rules and consequences should be set out in the school guidelines for you to view. This is because when you enrol at a private school your parents will sign an enrolment agreement promising to follow these rules. If you wear your hear long for religious or cultural reasons, you might want to get your parents to talk to the principal about getting an exemption from the uniform policy.  

If you went to a public school, the situation might be a little different, because in South Australia schools are not allowed to send you home for wearing things that you shouldn’t, or for having your hair particular length.    

If you have another question that we haven’t answered here, please send us a Lawmail.

This page was last updated 10 March 2015.

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