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Suspensions

Suspension process

The following information provides guidance to schools on investigations, decisions, notification and follow up for the school suspension process. 

First steps — before suspension

Determine if suspension is an option

Suspension is a serious disciplinary measure and is best reserved for incidents when other measures have not produced a satisfactory response.

A principal may only suspend a student if the location and nature of their behaviour meets certain conditions. For information on when suspension may be an option, refer to Grounds for Suspension under Suspension Considerations.

Conduct a preliminary investigation

The principal should conduct a thorough investigation to establish:

  • the nature of the behaviour(s)
  • the student who committed those behaviour(s)
  • the context in which it was committed, and
  • any other relevant circumstances in relation to the incident or behaviour

Consider options

When determining if suspension is appropriate for a particular student, consideration must be given to:

  • the behaviour for which suspension is being considered
  • the educational needs of the student
  • any disability the student may have
  • the age of the student
  • the residential and social circumstances of the student, including whether the student is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or culturally and linguistically diverse background or is in out-of-home care
  • whether the suspension would unfairly impact a student from a particular cultural background — for example, if the suspension would fall on a day which would prevent a student from a particular cultural background from participating in a cultural activity day about that student’s culture

Consideration should also be given to previous incidences of challenging behaviour and the support/disciplinary measures employed to respond to these.

For more information, refer to Behaviour — Students.

Consider information provided by student or family 

Before proceeding to a suspension the principal must ensure the following:

  • that the student has had the opportunity to be heard
  • that any information or documentation provided by the student or the relevant person has been taken into account in making the decision regarding the suspension

Consider supports and other forms of action

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.

In addition, when determining whether to suspend a student with a disability, principals must ensure that reasonable adjustments have been made to assist the student to address the behaviour where this is a manifestation of disability. Where the relevant behaviour was related to the student’s disability, Principals should contact Legal Division for further advice before making a final decision on suspension.

For a summary of key wellbeing interventions and supports available to Victorian government schools, see: interim map of wellbeing interventions

Next steps — decision, notification and action

In making their decision, the principal should consider their legal obligations and principles of administrative decision making (login required) as detailed in this guidance.

If the behaviour of a student meets the grounds for suspension and the principal decides to suspend, they must determine:

  • whether the suspension will be undertaken in school or out of school
  • the day on which the suspension will commence (including whether it will be an immediate suspension)
  • the period of suspension

Immediate suspensions

Principals may implement an immediate suspension if the student’s behaviour is putting the health, safety and wellbeing of themselves or any other person at significant risk.

Where a principal decides to implement an immediate suspension, they must ensure the student is appropriately supervised until:

  • the student is collected by a parent/carer, or parent’s emergency contact person, or
  • the end of the school day or activity if the parent/carer or emergency contact person is unable to collect them earlier 

When a principal has implemented an immediate suspension, the principal may determine whether or not to expel the student.

Further information on immediate suspensions is available in the Implementing the suspension section.

Period of suspension

A student cannot be suspended for longer than 5 days at any given time, unless the principal has implemented an immediate suspension and a longer period of suspension is approved in writing by the Regional Director for the purpose of undertaking expulsion procedures. Principals must complete the Application for approval of more than 5 consecutive days suspension when seeking the Regional Directors approval in these circumstances.

Additionally, a student cannot be suspended for more than 15 school days in a school year without the written approval of the relevant Regional Director. Principals must complete the Application for approval of more than 15 days suspension in a school year when seeking the Regional Director's approval in these circumstances.

If a student is suspended for a period which is longer than the days left in a term, the principal should consider the likely disruption to the student’s learning before imposing a suspension that will continue into the following term.

Implementing the suspension

Prior to the suspension taking effect, or on the day of taking immediate action, the principal must complete all of the following: 

  1. identify the relevant person
  2. notify the student (verbally) and the relevant person (via telephone or in person) of the reason/s for the suspension, the school days on which the suspension shall occur and where the suspension will occur
  3. provide contact details for additional support services to the student and the relevant person as appropriate
  4. arrange for appropriate school work to be provided to the student for the period of the suspension as follows, where the student is suspended for:
    • 3 days or less, provide meaningful work
    • more than 3 days, develop a student absence learning plan and return to school plan. Schools may wish to consider using the Department’s template Student Absence Learning Plan (login required) and template Return to School Plan (login required)
    • more than 5 days, in addition to the above requirements, a teacher should be designated as a key point of contact for the student and their family
  5. provide the student and the relevant person with a Notice of Suspension which must include:
    • the reasons for the suspension
    • the school days on which the suspension shall occur
    • and copies of the student absence learning plan and return to school plan, if required
  6. provide the student and their relevant person with a copy of the parent brochure — procedures following suspension. Consistent with the Charter and anti-discrimination legislation, documentation should be provided in alternative formats and community languages in order to meet the communication needs of the student and relevant person
  7. record the suspension on CASES21. For support to record the suspension in CASES21 refer to Chapter 6 merit and discipline in the CASES21 administration guide

It is important to discuss the reasons for the suspension with the student so that they understand why it is happening and what needs to change. Giving the student the opportunity to have a voice and influence in the discussion helps to foster their engagement in the process. This engagement may enable the student to take ownership over and make changes to their behaviour.

Final steps — post-suspension follow up and support

The principal should consider whether it is appropriate to convene a student support group meeting with the student, the relevant person, and any other adults or professionals involved in the care of the student.

The purpose of such a meeting is to discuss:

  • the student's behaviour that led to the suspension
  • a range of strategies to address the concerns, and
  • prevent further occurrences of such behaviour

It is strongly recommended that a meeting be convened if one or more of the following circumstances apply:

  • a student and/or their relevant person requests a meeting
  • a student has a disability, is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or is in out-of-home care
  • there have been three or more suspensions in the school year
  • the student has been suspended for the maximum 5 consecutive days

For more information see student support groups.

In all cases of suspension, it is important to consider the student's transition back into school and any disruption to their learning. In many cases, the student will require additional educational or other supports to help address the reasons for the incident and/or any underlying behavioural issues.

Repeated or lengthy suspensions may not address the reasons for a student's behaviour and risks leading to poorer outcomes for a student's engagement in education, especially when suspension is used alone without interventions and supports that address the underlying reasons for the incident(s).

Chapter in the Suspension Guidelines and Procedures outlining the steps required for the suspension process, following the initial suspension consideration stage

Reviewed 22 December 2020

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