This page explains the law about school rules at public schools in Victoria.
Q: Hi, my name is Josh. Can you tell me why schools have rules, and how I can find my school’s rules?
A: Hi Josh. Every school has rules. School rules are the standards of behaviour the school expects of its students.They tell students and parents what the school considers important. School rules also set out the students’ rights and responsibilities.
The Department of Education and Training (‘DET’) requires all Victorian state schools to have a ‘Student Engagement Policy’. This policy needs to have information about the school and its values, the rules of behaviour the school expects from students, and the actions which the school can take if the students don’t follow these rules. It also needs to have information about how the school deals with bullying.
Schools can make rules to:
- ensure that you are safe at school and are treated fairly;
- provide a positive and supportive learning environment;
- promote an inclusive environment free from harassment and bullying;
- ensure the smooth running of the school and administration.
Schools usually include their policies on the school website. If you can’t find your school’s rules and policies on its website, the best way to find out the rules is to ask the school office for a copy. You can also ask the principal if you have trouble getting them from the office.
Q: Hi, my name is Rebecca. I got into trouble because I didn’t go straight into school after I got dropped off. Can my school make rules about things like this?
A: Hi Rebecca. Yes, schools are allowed to make rules about arriving at and leaving the school . They can also make rules about what happens outside class hours. This is because schools need to protect the safety and welfare of their students. Some schools have a long list of ‘do’s and ‘don’ts’ controlling every aspect of school life. Other schools have general rules which set out the basic philosophy of the school and the values it promotes.
There are some limits on what rules they can make. For example, no school can make a rule allowing physical punishment like hitting or smacking.
Most schools have rules on:
- uniforms and dress codes;
- behaviour codes;
- student attendance;
- detention, suspensions and expulsions.
Q: Hi, my name is Victoria. If a rule is unfair or I think I’ve been treated unfairly, how can I challenge the school rules?
A: Hi Victoria. 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. School rules about punishing students also need to be based on ‘procedural fairness’. This means that the school needs to explain why it is punishing you, and it needs to give you the opportunity to complain if you think it is unfair.
If you feel that a rule is unfair or that you’ve been treated unfairly you can make a complaint. The school should always be the first point of contact for raising any concerns or complaints. Firstly, you should get a copy of the school 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 you think you’ve been treated unfairly you or a parent or guardian could ask for a meeting with the school principal. Often, a school is open to finding a solution that takes into consideration any concerns of their students’ families.
If your school is a state school, and you aren’t happy with how it responds to your concern, you can make a complaint to the Department of Education, with the help of a parent or guardian. If you aren’t satisfied with how the Department responds, you also have the right to make a complaint to the Victorian Ombudsman.
This page was last updated 18 March 2015.