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Suspensions

Suspension considerations

The following information provides guidance for schools on when to consider suspending a student. These considerations are based on the requirements under Ministerial Order 1125 — Procedures for Suspension and Expulsion of Students in Government Schools.

Before considering a suspension, schools must seek to understand the reasons for a student's behaviour and consider alternative educational and wellbeing supports and interventions that can be provided to the student to effectively address the reasons.

Grounds for suspension

In order for suspension to be an option, the following conditions must be in place:

  • The student’s behaviour must have occurred:
    • whilst attending school
    • or travelling to or from school
    • or while engaged in any school activity away from the school
    • or travelling to or from any school activity, and
  • The student’s behaviour must meet one or more of the following conditions: 
    • behaves in such a way as to pose a danger, whether actual, perceived or threatened, to the health, safety or wellbeing of any person
    • causes significant damage to or destruction of property
    • commits or attempts to commit or is knowingly involved in the theft of property
    • possesses, uses or sells or deliberately assists another person to possess, use or sell illicit substances or weapons
    • fails to comply with any clear and reasonable instruction of a staff member  so as to pose a danger, whether actual, perceived or threatened, to the health, safety or wellbeing of any person
    • consistently engages in behaviour that vilifies, defames, degrades or humiliates another person based on age; breastfeeding; gender; identity; impairment; industrial activity; lawful sexual activity; marital status; parent/carer status or status as a carer; physical features; political belief or activity; pregnancy; race; religious belief or activity; sex; sexual orientation; personal association (whether as a relative or otherwise) with a person who is identified by reference to any of the above attributes
    • consistently behaves in an unproductive manner that interferes with the wellbeing, safety or educational opportunities of any other student

When deciding whether or not to proceed to a suspension, the principal must consider alternative interventions and supports that can be provided to the student to address the reasons for the behaviour. For a summary of key wellbeing interventions and supports available to Victorian government schools, refer to: interim map of wellbeing interventions.

Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) requires schools to act and make decisions that are consistent with human rights. The Charter sets out 20 human rights, which can be viewed on the website of the Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission

In making a decision about whether to suspend a student, proper consideration must be given to whether the suspension will limit the student’s human right(s) and, if so, whether this limitation is reasonably justified in the circumstances. The most relevant human rights in relation to a suspension decision may include the right to recognition and equality before the law (i.e. protection against discrimination), the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, the right to protection of children according to their best interests and cultural rights.

You can contact the Legal Division for support with considering the Charter in relation to a suspension decision on ph: (03) 9637 3146 or email: legal.services@education.vic.gov.au

For more information about the Charter, refer to Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission

Authority to suspend a student

Only principals have authority to make the final decision to suspend a student. This authority cannot be delegated.

School staff may provide advice to inform the principal's decision whether to suspend a student and may assist in the management of the student’s behaviour and/or in communications with the parents, carers or relevant persons. Principals hold ultimate responsibility for ensuring that all processes are followed, correctly.

The relevant person

Due to the seriousness of suspension and expulsion, Ministerial Order 1125 requires that students who are subject to suspension and/or expulsion processes have a ‘relevant person’ to participate in the process, provide support and advocate for them. For most students this will be a parent or carer. 

In situations where the parent or carer is unavailable or unwilling to act as the relevant person for their child, they can nominate an alternative relevant person.

Further information on relevant persons for the purposes of both suspensions and expulsions is outlined in the Guidance chapter Identifying a support person (relevant person). Information on appointing a relevant person when the parents or carers are unable or unwilling to act as a relevant person is outlined in the Guidance chapter Appoint a relevant person.

Additional considerations for certain students

There are certain students for whom additional circumstances arise, including:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students;
  • Students with disability;
  • Students in out-of-home care;
  • Overseas students; and
  • Students with separated parents.

There is further information in relation to each of these students set out below. If you are considering suspending a student that falls within one of the above categories, you are encouraged to contact Legal Division to understand your legal obligations with respect to these students on ph: 03 9637 3146 or email: legal.services@education.vic.gov.au

Chapter in the Suspension Guidelines and Procedures on the required suspension considerations, including the grounds for suspension, human rights considerations, the authority to suspend and others

Reviewed 22 December 2020

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