Got a question? Ask Lawmail

Send your questions to Lawmail

Can't find the info you are looking for?Got a problem you can’t solve?

If you're under 25, or an adult asking on behalf of a person under 18, you can send your questions to Lawmail and we will email an answer to you in under 10 days. Urgent matters are dealt with more quickly.

Go to Lawmail. It’s free and confidential.

All donations over $2 are tax deductible.

Discipline and Punishment


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.


This information will apply to you if you go to a state (or government) school in Victoria. If you go to a private or Catholic school, you and your school’s legal rights may be different.


Q: Hi my name is Talia and I go to school in Victoria. I was put on a 1 hour after-school detention for not completing my homework. My parents had to wait outside to pick me up. Is my school allowed to do this? 

A: Hi Talia, you can be put on detention during recess, lunch or after school.  

The Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has a policy on detention which applies to all Victorian public schools. You can find the policy on their website.

Under this policy, only half of the time allocated for any 'recess' can be used for detention, and the time and place of any detention must be 'reasonable'. If the school considers the lunch period to be a 'recess', then only half of this period can be used for detention, and in any event, students must be given a reasonable amount of time to eat, rest, play and learn throughout the day. 

Where students are detained after school the time of the detention should not be longer than 45 minutes.  This policy also says that your teacher should inform your parents at least the day before putting the after school detention.  Your teacher could do this by calling or emailing them rather than sending a note, but if they haven’t been told by any means, you shouldn’t be kept in after school.  

If you are not satisfied with the way detentions are being implemented, we suggest making an appointment with your  teacher to raise your concerns. If this doesn't resolve the problem, we recommend talking with the school principal. If you're not happy with the way the school addresses the issue, or if you believe that the school's rules are not in line with the Department's guidelines, you can make a complaint to the Department's regional office.

The school's rules about detention and other disciplinary measures should be set out in a Student Engagement Policy. You should be able to get a copy of this policy on the school's website or from its main office. Visit their website for more information on the policy requirements.

Q: Hi my name is Derek and I go to school in Victoria. My friend and I were sent out of the classroom for talking in class, but we were only discussing the question on the board. My teacher said we were distracting the class by being too loud. I didn’t think we could be punished for discussing an educational question. What can the school punish me for and what kind of punishment can they give you?

A: Hi Derek. Schools can punish students for any misbehaviour occurring at school, at a school activity away from the school grounds; or while travelling to or from school or a school activity.  You can be punished for anything that breaks school rules such as:

  • disruptive behaviour; 
  • disobeying instructions;
  • not wearing school uniform; and 
  • not completing homework.

Punishment needs to be proportionate to the student’s misbehaviour. Types of punishment can include: 

  • Withdrawal of privileges for breaching classroom or school behavioural standards. For example not being allowed to attend a school event;
  • Students may be temporarily removed from classroom activities if their behaviour:
- Disrupts other students from learning; or 
- Disrupts a teacher from teaching a class; or 
- Could be harmful to others.
  • Detention is a punishment for less serious classroom and school misbehavior. 

Derek, if you think that you’ve been treated unfairly it may be a good idea to speak to your teacher or your principal. 


Q: Hi, my name is Shaniya. I have a dentist appointment at 1:30 on a school day. Can I be punished for leaving school during lunchtime? I’m 16.

A: Hi Shaniya, you may be punished if it is against your school’s policy to leave school during lunchtime. Students are expected to remain on school grounds during school hours. During lunch and recess students must be supervised by staff or teachers. 

If you are under 18 and want to leave school during lunch or recess you must get a written parent/guardian request and a short/long term lunch pass.   You will need to give your parent’s note to the office (or teacher) and you’ll be asked to sign out when you leave and to sign back in when you return. The office may also give you a note for when you return to class so that you don’t get into trouble with your teacher.


Q: Hi Lawstuff, my name is Zac and I attend school In Victoria. I was put on detention for the whole of recess for not tucking my shirt into my pants. Is this legal? 

A: Hi Zac. You can only be detained for up to half of the time allocated for 'recess'. There is no specification for how long you can be detained during lunch; however the length of detention must be 'reasonable'. Where students are detained after school the time of the detention should not be longer than 45 minutes.  

You can be given a detention for not having your shirt tucked in if it is a part of your school’s uniform policy. A school may set and enforce reasonable standards of dress for students. A public school’s uniform policy sets out the rules about how a student should dress and what will happen if a student wears the incorrect uniform . Your school’s policy should follow the Department of Education’s School Uniform Policies. You can find a copy of the Department’s policy about choosing a dress code here.


Q: Hi my name is Zoe. A friend of mine was excluded from taking part in a field trip for a core curriculum class as punishment for getting into fight with another student. Is the school allowed to do this? 

A: Hi Zoe. Generally the discipline and management of student behaviour is left to the discretion of the school. However, schools are encouraged to avoid actions and consequences that isolate a student from learning.  The school in refusing to allow your friend to attend a core curriculum class field trip could be considered as having engaged in an action that isolated a student from learning.

Every public school in Victoria is required to have a Student Engagement Policy that explains the school community’s expectations of student behaviour and sets out the rights and responsibilities of students and staff. You can ask at your school office for a copy of the policy or it may be on your school’s website. The Department of Education provides guidelines that explain what the school's Student Engagement Policy needs to include. You can find these guidelines here.

Your friend and her parents can raise a concern or make a complaint about any aspect of the school’s operation. If the school doesn’t have a process for students or parents to make a complaint, your friend may want to speak to their parents and ask them to talk to the head teacher for their year or to the school principal.  Your friend may also be able to get support from your student representative on the school council or the student representative committee. If the complaint is not resolved to your friend’s satisfaction they can find out more about lodging a complaint with The Victorian Department of Education here.


This page was last updated 16 April 2015.

  Insert text regarding ALL STATES here.
  You can choose to insert either:
     · Content that directly applies to ALL STATES of Australia.
     · A footnote that will be seen below the existing content of each state.