Searches and confiscations

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Disclaimer: This page explains the law about searches and confiscations at public schools in South Australia. 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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Can a teacher search me or my stuff?

Teachers cannot conduct random searches on you. But teachers can search your stuff if they think that you have something stolen from school. They can also search your property if you give permission or if the immediate safety of other students is at risk.  If you refuse to give permission, you can be disciplined under your school’s discipline policy (for example given a detention or suspension).

Teachers cannot use physical force when they search you.   

Can my parents give permission for a teacher to search me?

If you are in high school then you are generally considered old enough to decide for yourself.

Can a teacher search my bag, desk or locker?

Teachers are allowed to search your bag, desk and locker or if they think that you have something stolen in there.   If you refuse to open your bag, desk or locker, you could be fined up to $100.

Can a teacher search me for drugs?

Generally only the police can search you for drugs, unless there is a grave and immediate risk.  Your school can ask that you remove your jacket, turn your pockets inside out or take your shoes off. The school can also call the police, who have special powers to search for drugs.  

Can teachers call the police to carry out a search?

Yes. The police can come and search you if they believe you possess drugs, weapons or other illegal things on you.  If you are found with objects against the law on you, don’t panic. You do not have to go with the police unless you are arrested. If you are arrested, you can phone your parents or an adult you trust and ask them to come to the station. Do not make a statement to the police until a trusted adult arrives and never attempt to run away from the police or give a false name.


When can a teacher confiscate my property without my permission?

Generally, if you own something, it is against the law for anyone to take it away from you without your permission. However, schools can make rules regarding what you can and cannot bring to school, for example to prevent disruption to class.   

Generally, you don’t have to hand something over to the teacher, but if they ask and you refuse, you’re probably going to be disciplined for disobeying school rules (like having the banned item in the first place). Your can ask your school for a copy of the rules and see what they say.

Also, your school can confiscate anything without your permission if it poses an immediate threat to the safety of other students.

What about mobile phones and other electronic devices (iPods/mp3 players/iPads/tablets/laptops)?

Schools have rules saying when students can use mobile phones, laptops and other devices. Some schools may require that such devices be turned off and out of sight during lessons, assemblies and meetings and that mobile phones may only be used during recess, lunch breaks and before or after school. Other schools may make electronic devices such as laptops and tablets part of the way that they teach students and you are expected to ONLY use them for learning purposes. If you disobey your school rules, your teacher has a right to confiscate your mobile phone or electronic device.

Something of mine has been confiscated, when can I get it back?

There’s no law about how long teachers can confiscate your item for, but it should be returned within a reasonable time.  You should check your school rules to see what they say about how long things can be confiscated for. If the thing is illegal, then the school may give it to the police, and then it’s up to the police when and if you get it back. If it’s illegal for you to have as a young person (like a knife or cigarettes), the school may give it to your parents instead of you.  

What about knives and other weapons?

The school and police can confiscate a knife or other weapon because this presents an immediate danger to the safety of other students. It’s also illegal to have a knife on school grounds (unless you have a reasonable excuse like using a knife to eat your lunch).  

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