Discipline and school rules

Schools can make school rules about a range of things e.g. uniform, attendance, bringing devices to school, or bullying. The exact rules that will apply to your situation will depend on whether you go to a private school or a public school.

If you are ever unsure what your school’s rules are, you can check the school website, student diary, enrolment pack or ask the student office for a copy of the school rules.

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Public schools

Whilst public schools are allowed to make their own rules, they must also follow any relevant policies from the Department of Education e.g. the Department might require schools to have an anti-bullying policy. The Department might also describe what must be contained in these rules e.g. how students should be disciplined for breaking the rules.

Private schools

The  rules at private schools may be a little different. Private schools can make their own rules and when a student enrols at a private school, their parents/guardians will sign an enrolment agreement where they agree that their child will follow school rules. Failure to follow these rules may result in schools reasonably punishing the student.

When do school rules apply?

Generally schools cannot control what students do outside school hours and outside school grounds. But a school can make rules about what students do while they are in or near school grounds during school hours and immediately before and after school, or when interacting with people from school e.g. your school can have a cyber bullying policy that applies to bullying that happens outside of school.

Changing school rules

Your school is allowed to make changes to their rules and normally changes to school rules should be announced at school assemblies, in class or in school circulars/newsletters after appropriate discussion with the wider school community.

If you think a rule is unfair, you can influence school rules by talking to other people to see if they think a particular rule is unfair and should be changed, and then getting a student representative to take up the matter with the school council, the Parents and Citizens’ Association or the school principal.

What happens if I break a school rule?

Each school is responsible for making their own rules and to set reasonable punishments for breaking these rules.  For example, if you break a school rule, a teacher can give you detention during lunchtime, free periods or any break during the school day. Detention should not last so long that you don’t have time to eat your lunch or have a break from lessons.

Schools can punish you for a range of things that break school rules, such as misconduct, not completing homework, disobeying instructions, being disruptive in class, not wearing your uniform correctly and so on.  Your school can give you a range of punishments, including detentions and school service. Your school may also choose to suspend or exclude you, please see our Suspensions or Expulsions pages for more detail.

Your punishment should not be unfair or unreasonable. You should not be punished by being made to stand in one position for more than a short period, or by having to do an unpleasant job such as cleaning out the toilets. But the school can punish you by making you clean up the classroom, or collect rubbish. You have a right to be treated fairly by your school and not be harassed or discriminated against.

The rules will vary slightly depending on if you go to a private school or a public school for what kinds of punishments you can receive. If you feel you have been treated unfairly by a school rule, it is important that you get a copy of your school rules and any relevant other policy documents e.g. Department of Education policies for public schools, Catholic Education policies for Catholic schools.

What can I do if a school rule is unfair, or I have been treated unfairly?

If you feel you have been treated unfairly, you may have a right to appeal a particular decision. You should ask your parent or guardian to arrange a meeting with the school to find out the reasons why the school rule exists, or for them to explain why you were disciplined in a certain way. If you are still not happy after this meeting, you can consider making a further complaint to the Department of Education (for public schools) or the school’s board or governance body (for private schools).

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