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School operations

Behaviour — Students

10  Managing and responding to behaviour — consequences for students

When discipline can be used

Schools can discipline students for behaviour incidents:

  • occurring at school
  • at a school activity away from the school grounds
  • while travelling to or from school or a school activity.

Disciplinary measures should be consistent with a whole-school approach to behaviour support. Schools are responsible for ensuring that a local Student Engagement Policy is in place to provide positive supports for students. 

A student wellbeing and engagement policy template is available on the School Policy Templates Portal (staff login required). Schools can modify this to suit their local circumstances.

Consider other strategies first

Before moving to a disciplinary response, schools should consider whether more effective and appropriate strategies can be put in place for the student, such as wellbeing, engagement and mental health supports.

Consequences for behaviour should always be proportionate to the nature of the behaviour and are most effective when they identify and address the causes and triggers of the behaviour.

The Education Training and Reform Act 2006 (Vic) prohibits the use of corporal punishment in any Victorian Government school and this must be explicitly stated in relevant school policies that address discipline (for example Student Engagement Policy). (See the Student Wellbeing and Engagement Policy template on the School Policy Templates Portal - staff login required).  

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) prohibits discrimination on the basis of protected attributes, including:

  • race
  • religion
  • disability
  • sex
  • age
  • gender identity
  • sexual orientation.

Schools must ensure any disciplinary action does not breach this legislation.

Making the decision to discipline a student

Schools must follow the Basic Principles of Administrative Decision Making when deciding if it's appropriate to discipline a student. This includes:

  • staff members knowing which discipline measures they have the authority to use
  • checking they have the legal authority to make the decision, where suspension or expulsion is being considered. Only a principal has the legal authority to decide to suspend or expel a student
  • maintaining accurate, comprehensive and accessible records
  • guarding against assumptions, generalisations or asserted facts
  • making decisions in a timely manner
  • ensuring procedural fairness and an unbiased approach to making the decision by making sure:
    • any student who engages in behaviour or actions that are deemed to be unacceptable or inappropriate, and which may warrant disciplinary action, is notified that their behaviour is unacceptable and why and given an opportunity to respond, and
    • the student’s response and rights are taken into account when deciding on any disciplinary action
  • exercising reasonable discretion
  • giving meaningful and accurate reasons for the decision being made.

In-school discipline

In instances where schools believe disciplinary actions are the most appropriate response to a student’s behaviour, staged in-school disciplinary measures can be used. Schools may modify these as needed. Whilst these measures take place on school premises, they may occur outside school hours.

As with all forms of discipline, staged in-school disciplinary measures should be clearly set out in, and aligned with the school’s Student Engagement Policy and expectations around behaviour. Schools should ensure they are used in a way that is proportionate to the behaviour being addressed.

Withdrawal of privileges

Schools can withdraw student privileges as a consequence of breaching classroom or school behavioural standards. The specific privileges withdrawn will vary between schools and even students at the same school; however, they may include things such as representing the school at inter-school sports or attendance at a school event.

When withdrawing privileges as a disciplinary measure, schools should ensure that:

  • the withdrawal is time-limited
  • the reasons for and period of the withdrawal is clearly communicated to the student
  • the student is made aware of the behaviour standards expected in order for the privileges to be reinstated
  • consideration is given to the impact on the student's engagement and ability to achieve learning outcomes
    • For example, where the withdrawal of a privilege may contribute to a student’s risk of disengaging from school, strategies are put in place to maintain student engagement during the withdrawal
  • consideration is given to any disability to ensure that any withdrawal of privileges does not amount to unlawful discrimination. For example, a student with a disability may require an iPad with a communication application as a reasonable adjustment to enable that student to communicate/participate in class activities. In this circumstance removal of the iPad as a disciplinary measure is not appropriate
  • consideration is given to race, religious belief or activity or other special circumstances to ensure that any withdrawal of privileges does not amount to unlawful discrimination. This includes considering circumstances where the withdrawal of privileges would restrict a student’s participation in any cultural activities at the school.

Withdrawal from class

A student may be temporarily removed from regular classroom activities if their behaviour significantly interferes with the rights of other students to learn, the capacity of a teacher to teach, or where it creates a risk of harm to themselves or others.

Schools have a duty of care to ensure that students are supervised at all times, including when they are removed from a class. Unless the student is a mature minor parents and carers should be informed of such withdrawals.

Withdrawal from class does not constitute formal school exclusion such as suspension (including in-school suspension) or expulsion.

Detention

Detention may be an appropriate response for a wide range of less serious classroom and school behaviour breaches. Detention can effectively reinforce to students the importance of maintaining appropriate behaviour standards.

Schools are permitted to require students to attend before or after school detention but are encouraged to take into account family circumstances and negotiate with parents and carers as appropriate.

During detention teachers may instruct a student to finish schoolwork which has not been completed in regular classroom time as a result of the behaviour, new work or other duties.

Schools must:

  • consider local circumstances when determining what a reasonable time and place for detention entails
  • make sure any special conditions relating to the imposition of detention are specified in the school's student engagement policy
  • consider any other special circumstances, including whether a student has a disability. For example, a student with a disability may not understand that the detention is a consequence of their behaviour.

It is recommended that schools ensure:

  • no more than half the time allocated for any recess may be used for detention
  • students undertake detention at a reasonable time and place
  • where students are requested to undertake detention outside of school hours:
    • parents or carers are informed at least the day before the detention
    • the length of the detention should not exceed forty-five minutes
  • where the detention would create undue hardship (for example, where students regularly supervise younger siblings in the absence of parents, or where limited travel alternatives for students are available), that alternative measures are negotiated with parents.
Guidance chapter on consequences for students engaging in inappropriate behaviour

Reviewed 23 August 2021

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