Suspensions

The rules on suspensions and expulsions are different depending on whether you go to a public government school or a private school. This page only applies if you go to a public school in New South Wales. If you attend a private, independent or Catholic school please contact us here with your question.  

Every Australian child has a right to education. This means your school cannot suspend or expel you without very good reasons and a clear process.  It also means your school must act fairly if they are planning on suspending or expelling you from school.  If you think you are being unfairly punished, you may be able to appeal the decision.

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What is suspension?

Suspension is when the school asks you to leave school for a short time.  

What can you be suspended for?

Short suspensions

You can be given a short suspension for a maximum of 4 school days if you:

  • Continually disobey your teachers – this can include constantly disrupting other students, smoking repeatedly, drinking, refusing to follow instructions
  • Show aggressive behaviour – this can include behaviour towards other students and staff, damage to any property, and also bullying and cyberbullying by Facebook, Twitter, SMS,  text and other technologies.

Long suspensions

You may be given a long suspension which is a maximum of 20 school days if your school has tried short suspensions or your behaviour is so serious that it warrants a long detention straight away.  The kinds of things you would get a long suspension for include:

  • Use or have a prohibited weapon like a knife or gun.
  • Are physically violent in a way which seriously affects the safety or wellbeing of students or staff (including sexual or indecent assault)
  • Have committed serious criminal activity related to the school, for example damaging school property or other staff and student property.
  • Using a non-dangerous item as a weapon (for example scissors)
  • Persistent or serious misbehaviour.  This is a very broad category, but it definitely includes deliberate bullying and harassment, repeatedly not following school rules, making threats, or threatening to use a weapon.

What process does the school have to follow?

1. Consider your situation and other alternatives

Unless you have been given an immediate suspension (see below for details about this), you should only be suspended if your school has already tried to other actions to improve your behaviour (like detentions), and they have met with your parents and provided support to you to try and help you to improve your behaviour.  Also, you shouldn’t be suspended if you haven’t received a formal caution before.

Before deciding to suspend you, the school has to consider your age, needs and any disability or developmental problem that you might have.  The school also can take into account the safety, care, and welfare of other students.

2. Give you a chance to explain your side of the story

Before deciding to suspend you, the school also has to hold a formal meeting with you where they will explain the behaviour and evidence they have, and give you a chance to explain and respond to what they say.

Also, if the school suspends you, the school will tell your parents and send a notice to them. This letter will explain the reasons and time for your suspension, any also the process for appealing the decision. The school should also send your parents a copy of the Suspension Procedures and a copy of your school discipline code.  

Before you go back to school

If the school does suspend you, they have to organise a special meeting called a Suspension Resolution Meeting. This is a meeting with you, your parents and school staff to talk about why you were suspended and to work out ways to get you back to school as soon as possible and hep you improve your behaviour. If you have been given a long suspension you may be referred to see the school counsellor.

Immediate Suspension

Your school has to suspend you from school immediately if:

  • You become physically violent
  • Have a gun, knife or other prohibited weapon;
  • Use, supply or have an illegal or restricted substance like drugs or someone else’s medication (but not alcohol or tobacco)
  • Are involved in vary serious criminal activity related to your school.

Please contact us here if you have been give an immediate suspension and you would like information or assistance.

Even if you are suspended immediately, you must be treated fairly at all times.

Can you appeal a suspension?

You have a right to appeal against the decision to suspend you from school if you think that the decision was unfair or the school didn’t follow the correct procedures.  It’s very important that you make an appeal as soon as possible after you find out that you have been suspended.

The way you appeal is to send a form and letter to the Director of Public Schools New South Wales.  You can find the form on page 28 of the Procedures Guide: https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/policies/student_serv/discipline/stu_discip_gov/suspol_07.pdf

It’s important in your appeal to explain what in particular you think is unfair, or which rules the school didn’t follow in deciding to suspend you.

If your appeal is not successful, you can appeal to the Executive Director of Public Schools New South Wales.  You can use the form on page 28 of the Procedures Guide https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/policies/student_serv/discipline/stu_discip_gov/suspol_07.pdf

Once you send your appeal, you will have to wait up to 20 school days for the Department to decide whether to suspend you.

If you need help appealing, you can contact the Local Department of Education Office.  You can find the contact details of your local office by typing in your school name at this website: http://www.dec.nsw.gov.au/our-services/services-locator or by asking your principal for the details. 

What if you think you have been discriminated against?

Click here for more information about discrimination at school.

What will a suspension mean for my future?

  • Your suspension will be recorded in your school’s register. However, information about your suspension or expulsion is not public information as your personal information is protected by privacy legislation.
  • You may be expelled from your school and in serious cases of bad behaviour and the Minister may refuse your admission to any government school.
  • If you want to enrol in TAFE, you must let them know if you were suspended or expelled for violent behaviour. They will then decide if you are a current risk to the safety of any person within TAFE NSW.

You have a right to be heard

Remember, throughout the suspension or expulsion process, you have the right to be heard. This means you have:

  • The right to know why you are being punished
  • The right to know the way the decision will be made
  • The right to know the problems and any other information which will be used to decide the decision
  • The right to respond to any allegations against you.

For more information and help

If you have been suspended or expelled from school, you should get advice about your rights as soon as possible. You need to act quickly to ensure that you minimise as much as possible any disruption or break in your education.

Please contact us here as soon as you find out so that we can advise you of what to do next.

You can also read the New South Wales government’s short brochure on suspensions and expulsions here: https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/policies/student_serv/discipline/susp_expul/leaflet_1.pdf and their full policy here: https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/policies/student_serv/discipline/stu_discip_gov/suspol_07.pdf

Finally, if you are finding that being out of school is very difficult and stressful and you are feeling a bit down you can call Kids Helpline or check them out here:  http://kidshelpline.com.au/teens/.  The Helpline is free and you don’t have to tell them who you are. You can also call them for free on 1800 55 1800.

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