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FAQ

Victoria

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Hi, my name is Ryan. I am 13 years old and live in Victoria. My teacher always teases, name calls and swears at students in front of other teachers and students. Can I do something about this?

Answer: Hi Ryan,

Students have a right to feel safe at school and their school has a duty to take care of them. If you or other students are being treated badly, we encourage you to talk to your parents about what's going on. They can set up a meeting with the principal to talk about your concerns. If you aren't satisfied with the principal's response, you and your parents can make a complaint. We explain this below.

Your school's duty of care

Your school has a duty of care to its students and should provide a safe and supportive learning environment and look after students’ well-being. Your year level coordinator or teacher is not allowed to harm or intentionally embarrass students. Based on what you told us, it sounds like the year level coordinator or teacher may not be acting appropriately.

Department of Education Policies

Public schools in Victoria also have to follow rules that the Department of Education makes. Their School Policy and Advisory Guide on Student Participation says that schools have to provide safe, secure, supportive and engaging learning environments. If you are worried about how your year level coordinator or teacher is affecting your learning environment, you should tell your teacher and parents about this.

For more information about the Department’s policy on student participation, see: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/participation/Pages/participation.aspx   

What can you do?

We think that it's best to speak to your parents about what's been happening. They can make an appointment with the principal to discuss your concerns and how the school can help. You or your parents can also ask your school for a copy of its policies about staff conduct and complaints, if you don’t have them already.

Before your parents see the principal, you could start by writing down a list of things that your teacher has done or said that you do not like or worries you, and when and where each of these things happened. You can also write down what you would like the school to do to make you and any student affected feel better.

If you and your parents are not satisfied with the principal's response, you can ask the school for a copy of their complaints policy and make a formal complaint to the school or the Department of Education.

 

How do you make a complaint to the Department of Education?

To make a formal complaint to the Department of Education, you or your parents can call the Department on 9637 2000 and ask to speak to your regional office. Your parents could also fill out the form here (http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/contact/parentcomplaintform.pdf) and send it in to your regional office (you can find the address on the form).

For more information about making complaints to the Department, check out: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/contact/Pages/complaininfo.aspx.

You should also look at the information sheet about Parents Complaints here: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/contact/parentcomplainbrochure.pdf.  

Who can you talk to?

If you feel like you can't talk to your parents, please consider telling another trusted adult who can help, like a school counsellor.
There are also lots of services which offer free and confidential counselling for young people.

If you would like talk to someone about how you're feeling, you can call a counsellor from Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or visit their website here: http://www.kidshelp.com.au/

You can also call headspace on 1800 650 890, or if you would prefer to chat online you can go to: https://www.eheadspace.org.au/.

Page last updated on 26 June 2015.

Question: Hi, my name is Justin. I go to a public school and am going on a camp soon. Can teachers search my bag without my permission to see if I have a phone?


Answer: Hi Justin,

Public schools can make their own rules about confiscating mobile phones and searching school bags, but these rules must follow the law and the Department of Education's policies.

Can your school confiscate a mobile phone or other non-dangerous items?

Schools can make policies about what students can and can’t bring to school and/or on a school camp. These policies can ban students from bringing anything that is illegal, dangerous or likely to cause disruption. Schools can also create policies about when and how students can use the things that they’re allowed to bring to school or school camp, for example, mobile phones.

You can check your school's website or ask the office for a copy of your school's policy on mobile phones. If they do not have a policy, they may just follow the Department of Education's basic policy, which says that students should:

  • only use mobile phones when usage will not disrupt the normal school routine;
  • have their mobile phones switched off and out of sight during classes;
  • only use their mobile phones before or after school, or during recess and lunch breaks;
  • display courtesy, consideration and respect for others when using a mobile phone; and
  • ensure that their phones are always stored in a safe and secure place.

You can find this mobile phone policy here: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/safety/pages/mobilephones.aspx.

If you are breaking the school rules by using a mobile, then teachers have the authority to ask you to hand over the phone. Although they can’t force you to hand over your phone, if you do not agree to give it to them, you may be disciplined for breaking the school or camp rules.

If a teacher confiscates any of your belongings, including your mobile phone, they have the  responsibility to keep it safe and to return it to you within a reasonable amount of time (usually at the end of the school day, but if you are on a school camp, this might be at the end of the camp).

 

Can your teachers search your bag?

The only situation where teachers have authority to search a student’s personal belongings without their consent is where they believe the student has something harmful in their possession, like a weapon. Teachers should ask for your permission before any search is carried out and cannot physically force you to empty out your bag. However, teachers may still discipline you if they reasonably suspect you are breaking the school or camp rules by having a mobile phone and you refuse to hand it over or agree to a search. If a teacher has not seen you with a phone and does not have any other reason to believe that you may have broken the rules, then you should not be disciplined for refusing to agree to a search.

You can find the Department of Education’s policy on searching student property here: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/safety/Pages/property.aspx.

As we mentioned above, it is also possible that the camp has a policy that lets them search anyone who uses their grounds to make sure they don't have anything that could be dangerous to the environment or to other people. You can ask the school or the camp for a copy of the camp's policy.

Page last updated on 26 June 2015.

Question: Hi, my name is Natalie. I’m 17 years old and live in Victoria. I want to know if teachers can confiscate my mobile phone and keep it overnight.

Answer: Hi Natalie,

There are no laws about teachers confiscating phones, but the Department of Education has guidelines which say that, if a teacher confiscates your mobile phone, they should give it back to you at the end of the day, or if that is not possible, as soon as possible.

If your teacher has confiscated your phone in a way that you believe is unfair, we encourage you to talk to your parents or carers about it so they can speak with your teacher. If this doesn't resolve the situation, you and your parents can meet with the Principal. If this doesn't help, and you believe that your school is not following its rules or the Department of Education's guidelines, you can make a complaint to the Department. We have explained how to do this below.

Can your school confiscate your phone?

Schools can make rules about when students can use phones at school and when teachers can confiscate them. The Victorian Department of Education guidelines say that your school should discourage the use of mobile phones in the classroom and that you should not use your phone when it would be disruptive to the normal school routine. This includes if using your phone would be breaking the school rules. You can find these guidelines here: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/safety/pages/mobilephones.aspx.

Your school must have a Student Engagement Policy which explains when you can have your phone at school and when you can use it at school. You should be able to find it at the school office or on the school’s intranet. If you can, you should try to get a copy of the plan so you have a better idea of what teachers can and can’t do when they confiscate a phone at your school.

A teacher can’t physically force you to give them your phone. But, if you do not agree to hand it over, you may be disciplined for breaking the school rules.

How long can your school keep your phone?

The Department of Education guidelines say that, if a teacher confiscates your mobile phone, they should generally give it back to you at the end of the day, or if that is not possible, soon after that. If a teacher confiscates your phone, they have a responsibility to keep it safe. If you’d like to find out more about these guidelines, you can find them here (see the section on "Confiscating other items"): http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/safety/Pages/property.aspx.

If your phone has been confiscated in a way that you believe was unfair, we suggest that you speak to your parents and then raise your concerns with you school.

 

What can you do?

  • Talk to the teacher or principal

If you think a teacher has broken the rules by taking your phone, or by not letting you pick it up within a reasonable time, you should first talk to your teacher and see if you can sort it out with them. If you are unhappy with their response, you can talk to your school Principal. You may want to arrange a meeting with your parents and the Principal to discuss the situation.

  • Make a complaint to the Department of Education

If you are unable to sort things out with the Principal, you can contact your regional office of the Department of Education. You can find their contact details here: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/contact/pages/regions.aspx. You may need your parents to make the complaint on your behalf. You can find out more about making a complaint to the Department here: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/contact/pages/complainschool.aspx#H3N100AB.

  • Who else can you talk to?

If something's happened at school that has made you stressed or upset, there are lots of services which offer free and confidential counselling for young people.

If you would like talk to someone about how you're feeling, you can call a counsellor from Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or visit their website here: http://www.kidshelp.com.au/

You can also call headspace on 1800 650 890, or if you would prefer to chat online you can go to: https://www.eheadspace.org.au/.

Page last updated on 26 June 2015.

Question: Hi my name is Tom and I’m 13 years old. I live in Dandenong. Recently I was getting bullied in a public school. I sorted out some of the bullies, but one of them won’t stop. What can I do?

Answer: Hi Tom,

Tom, we’re sorry to hear that you've been bullied at school.
We think your best option is to tell your school about the bullying. They have a responsibility to make sure that the school environment is safe for students. If you and your parents/carers let them know what's going on, they can take steps to stop the bullying and keep you safe. If you and your parents/carers aren't satisfied with the school's response, you can make a complaint to the Department of Education.

 

Is bullying against the law?

'Bullying' itself is not a crime, but many types of bullying are illegal. For example, it is against the law to physically hurt someone or threaten to hurt them. If someone is afraid that they are going to be hurt or threatened, they can apply to the court for an order to protect them. For more information on these types of court orders, see: http://www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/find-legal-answers/personal-safety-intervention-orders

 

What can your school do?

You have a right to feel safe in your school environment, and schools have a ‘duty of care’ to their students. A duty of care is a legal responsibility to take steps to keep you safe from harm. This includes making sure that the school environment is safe for students, both physically and emotionally, and that there are strategies in place to stop bullying.

As part of this duty of care, all public schools in Victoria must follow the Department of Education's Bullying Policy. This policy says that schools must include a statement about bullying in the Rights and Responsibilities section of their Student Engagement Policy. It also says that they should:

  • promote and support safe and respectful learning environments where bullying is not tolerated;
  • put in place whole-school anti-bullying strategies;
  • develop processes to prevent and respond to incidents of bullying; and
  • work with parents to reduce and manage bullying.

You can find this policy here: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/safety/pages/bullying.aspx

We encourage you and your parents/carers to ask the school office for a copy of the Student Engagement Policy and any anti-bullying policies they have.

Then, we recommend arranging a meeting with the principal to talk about what's been happening. Before the meeting, it might be helpful to write down who has been bullying you, what they've been doing and when/where this has happened, as well as how you have tried to resolve the bullying. If there is anything in particular that you would like the school to do to stop the bullying, you can write this down as well.

You can bring these notes and a copy of the bullying policies from the school and the Department of Education to the meeting, and ask the principal to help you and your parents/carers come up with a specific plan to try to stop the bullying. It's also a good idea to schedule a follow-up meeting so you can check in on how things are going and whether the plan has resolved the bullying.

 

What if the school doesn't help?

If you and your parents/carers aren't satisfied with the school's response and the bullying continues, you can make a complaint to the Department of Education.

The first place to contact would the Regional Office. You can find your Regional Office by asking your school. The form for making a written complaint can be found here: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/contact/parentcomplaintform.pdf

This is also a helpful guide to making a complaint: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/contact/parentcomplainbrochure.pdf

When you make a complaint, you will have to outline the problem, including how your school failed to solve it, and how you would like the problem to be resolved. The Department of Education will respond to your complaint (normally within 20 school days) and hopefully help you find a solution.

However, the Department will only respond to a complaint if you have tried to solve the problem with your school first. This is why we encourage you to talk to your principal and see if they can make a plan to stop the bullying as the first thing you do.

 

Talk to someone

Tom, bullying is a tough thing to deal with and sometimes it can help to talk to someone about it, especially if it is making you feel upset or frustrated. We encourage you to talk to a parent/carer, family member or other trusted adult about what’s going on, so they can provide you with some support. You could also talk to your teacher, year coordinator or school counsellor.

If you're not comfortable with this, we encourage you to contact one of these free and private youth support services - they offer counselling by phone or online and you don't have to give them your name if you don't want to:


Page last updated on 26 June 2015.

Question: Hi, my name is Hamish and I am 16 years old. I attend a state school in Victoria. This one boy (Paul) and his friends bully not only me but other kids all the time. The school doesn’t seem to be able to control him. What rights do I have to try and control them?

Answer: Dear Hamish,

You don't have a right to control Paul and his friends. But you do have a right to be safe at school, and your school has a responsibility to protect you from bullying.

 

Schools and bullying

You have a right to feel safe at school, Hamish. Your school also has a responsibility to protect you and other students from bullying.
Your school should have a Bullying Prevention Policy. You or your parents can ask the front office for a copy.

The Policy must:

  • explain the responsibilities of students, parents, carers and teachers for preventing and responding to bullying and
  • make sure that support is given to any student affected by bullying.

If you want to learn more about Bullying Prevention Policies, you and your parents can have a look at: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/programs/bullystoppers/Pages/prinprevent.aspx

 

What can you do about it?

  • Talk to your parents and your school counsellor/teacher

Hamish, we think the best thing you can do is to let your parents or carers know about what is going on. They might be able to help you respond to what Paul is doing and give you some helpful tips. They will also be able to help you talk to your teacher or the school welfare officer/counsellor if the bullying does not stop.
The teachers and welfare officer/school counsellor at your school have a duty to make sure that your learning environment is safe and that you are not being bullied.

 

  • Talk to the principal

If the bullying does not stop after you have spoken to your teacher and welfare officer or school counsellor, you can get your parents’ help to set up a meeting with the school's Principal. Here are some general tips for you and your parents for when you talk to your teacher, welfare officer/school counsellor or the Principal:

  • be as clear as possible about what has happened, including when and where the bullying took place, and who was involved;
  • ask what steps the school will take to keep you and other students safe (or suggest some ideas if you can think of any); and
  • keep a record of the meetings you and your parents have with the school and what the school promises to do.


What can you do if the school does not resolve the issue?

If the bullying continues after speaking to the Principal, you and your parents can contact the regional office of the Department of Education to make a complaint. For more information on complaints, go to: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/contact/Pages/complainschool.aspx

 

Who else can help?

Being bullied is tough. If you want to talk to someone outside of school, Kids Helpline is a great counselling service. You can call them for free, confidential counselling seven days a week, 24 hours a day on 1800 55 1800. You can also do web counselling at www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-help/web-counselling/.

For more information about bullying at school, see:



Page last updated on 26 June 2015.

   
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