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School uniforms

Western Australia

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Can my school make me wear a uniform?

Q: Hi, my name is Yi and I go to a public school in Perth.  Can my school make me wear a particular uniform?

A: Hi Yi. Great question!  Public schools in Western Australia can make rules about what you have to wear to school. They’re also allowed to discipline you if you don’t wear the right things.   But a school is not allowed to suspend or expel you for not following the uniform policy.

Your school probably has a specific uniform policy (sometimes called a dress code) which explains what you can wear and what happens if you don’t follow the rules. If you’re not sure what the uniform requirements are, or what can happen to you if you don’t follow them, you can ask for a copy from your school.The law also says that if the school changes the dress code, they have to let you know in writing.


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

Q: Hi, my name is Cindy. My school has changed the sports uniform for next semester but I am worried to ask my parents to buy it because they have been struggling to make ends meet lately. Will I get in trouble if I don’t buy it?

A:  Hi Cindy. The short answer is you probably will not get in trouble.

Most schools are understanding if parents cannot afford a uniform. The WA Education Department’s policy is that schools should help you and your family to buy uniforms if you’re having trouble affording them.   

To find out more about getting a uniform through the school, you and your parents should talk to the principal. If there aren’t any spare uniforms available, the principal may also be able to give you an exemption from wearing the new uniform. You can apply for an exemption by getting your parents to write a letter to the principal.

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

Q: Hi, my name is Paddy. I have a necklace with a cross on it that I wear underneath my school shirt, and one of my teachers told me that I’m not allowed to wear it. I told her that is has religious importance to me but she didn’t listen and gave me a detention. Is she right? Am I allowed to wear it?

A: Hi Paddy.

Generally speaking, your school is not allowed to unreasonably enforce a uniform policy if it discriminates against you based on your religion, ethnicity or cultural background. You can ask the principal for an exemption from the policy for religious or cultural reasons. To do this, your parents should write a letter to the principal explaining the situation.

If you believe you have a good reason not to wear the things in the dress code, you can apply to your school’s principal for an exemption.  Examples of things that might be considered good reasons are: items of clothing that have cultural or religious significance or if wearing something would have an effect on your health.

If you’re still having problems with the school, you can make a complaint to the Department of Education. There are also options to make a complaint to the WA Equal Opportunity Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission.

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

Schools can make rules about what you can wear in terms of non-clothing items like the colour, style or length of your hair.  This also includes other things like jewellery, tattoos, piercings and make up.   Some of these things might also be a safety risk, for example piercings, jewellery and hair length when doing things like playing sport or in design or art class.  

Your school is also allowed punish you if you keep wearing them. If you think that the uniform policy is unfair, you might want to try talking to your Principal. You could also speak to the Parents’ Association and see if other parents and students think the rules are unreasonable. That way you could work with the school to make the rules fairer. 

If you go to a private school, your school can ban these things but there should be a clear written policy which explains the rules about what you can and can’t wear.

This page was last updated 10 March 2015.







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