Searches and confiscations

Disclaimer: This page explains the law about searches and confiscations at public schools in Queensland. If you have any questions about searches and confiscations at a private school, please contact us here and please include the name of your school.

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Searches

When can a teacher search my stuff?

Teachers can only search you or your stuff if you/your parents give them permission, or if it’s an emergency/other students’ lives are at immediate risk (for example, to stop someone being hurt or killed).  

If you don’t give permission to be searched, the school can’t search you, but they can punish you for disobeying them.  They can also call the police who can search you without your permission.

What can a teacher search?

  • POCKETS – unless it’s an emergency, teachers can’t force you to empty your pockets. But remember, they can punish you for not following instructions or call the police who can search your pockets without your permission.
  • LOCKERS AND DESKS – these are school property so the school can search them without your permission.
  • BAG – unless it’s an emergency, teachers can’t search your bag without your permission. But remember, they can punish you for not following instructions or call the police who can force you to empty your pockets.

Can the police search me?

If the police are called they may perform a search if the police officer reasonably suspects a person has something that may be:

  • a weapon, knife or explosive; 
  • an unlawful dangerous drug; 
  • stolen property; 
  • unlawfully obtained property; or
  • tainted property

The police don’t need a warrant to carry out this kind of search.  If the police decide to search you, the officer must conduct the search in the presence of a support person, who is an adult you get to choose. Generally police can only search you without someone else there if they reasonably suspect that:

  • Delaying the search is likely to result in evidence being concealed or destroyed; or
  • An immediate search is necessary to protect the safety of a person.

When can the school confiscate my property?

While the law protects your right to have your own stuff and not have anyone take it from you without permission, this is balanced against the rights for schools to make reasonable rules to ensure the safety of other students or the good order and management of the school.

Your school can confiscate:

  • Anything that they consider necessary to make the school a safe and productive place to learn
  • Anything that they consider necessary to maintain respect between staff and students
  • Anything that they consider necessary to encourage discipline and learning consequences
  • Anything that they consider necessary to generally deal with students and their behaviour
  • Anything that’s illegal
  • Anything that presents a risk to the safety of other people
  • Anything banned in your school rules

Your school rules (or the Responsible Behaviour Plan) should explain any non-illegal things are banned (for example mobile phones, iPads or laptops).  The rules should also explain how long they can be confiscated for.  

If a teacher confiscates my stuff, how do I get it back?

If a teacher confiscates your stuff, they have to give it back to you or your parents within a reasonable time (unless it’s illegal to possess or threatens the safety of other people at school).  The school can give something back to your parents and not you if they think it’s dangerous for you to have.  The school can also refuse to give something back to you if they think it’s not yours.  

What is a reasonable time depends on what was taken, why it was taken away from you or how much it’s worth.   If you think it’s taking too long to get your stuff back, you can talk to your Principal.  If that doesn’t work, you can make a complaint with your local regional office.

If the police take your stuff, then it’s up to them to decide when you get it back.  You should talk to the police officer who took it from you to find out when you can get it back.

If the school damages my stuff, can I get them to pay for it?

The school has to take reasonable care with your stuff and make sure they give it back to you in the same condition as it was when they took it.  If the school damages something they have confiscated, they will have to pay to replace it.  You can talk to your Principal about getting the school to replace it.  If that doesn’t work, you can make a complaint with your local regional office (you can find your regional office here: http://education.qld.gov.au/wcis/Centre/ListCentres.aspx). If that doesn’t work, you can make a complaint to the Education Department’s Head Office.

If you have any further questions you can get help here.

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