School operations

Weapons and Other Harmful Items – Banning, Searching and Seizing

Declaration of harmful items

A principal may ban certain items from being brought onto school premises which the principal reasonably believes are likely to be used in a threatening, violent or harmful manner. In banning such items the principal must make a “declaration of harmful items”.

The Template Declaration of Harmful ItemsExternal Link has been developed for use in this process.

Considerations for declaring and banning harmful items

When making a declaration of harmful item, consideration must be given to:

  1. the nature of the item being declared, for example whether the item has cultural or religious significance or if the item is required to manage a physical disability of a student
  2. items commonly found on school property such as pencils, cooking equipment or compasses and the impact that declaring such an item may have on the regular, harmonious functioning of the school community
  3. whether the principal reasonably believes that the item is likely to be used in a threatening, violent or harmful manner. In deciding this, consideration should be given to:
    1. the outcome being sought for the safety and wellbeing of students and staff is in proportion to the making of the declaration
    2. past behaviour, threats, and trends among students and the broader community.

Items that a student or students may legitimately possess (for example for religious purposes or as a disability aid) must be stated to be exempt from any declaration.

Declaring harmful items to be banned — examples

Examples of principal declarations of harmful items are:

  • Metal rulers are banned from the school premises, except for those students who are enrolled in art classes. Those students may use metal rulers, however the rulers shall be retained by the Art department and distributed to students in class only.
  • Students may not bring knives of any type onto the school premises, but a Sikh student may be exempted from this declaration for the purposes of wearing a Kirpan.
  • Students are banned from bringing bats or sticks onto the school for two weeks, with an exemption for those students who require an item such as a walking stick to assist with mobility issues.

Procedures for declaring and banning harmful items

The declaration should preferably be published at least 24 hours prior to the declaration coming into effect.

The declaration should be printed in languages reflective of the school community and distributed by the method or methods which are typically used to communicate with the school community.

The declaration must contain the following information:

  • that listed items are declared as harmful and as a consequence are banned from the school premises under the conditions set out in the declaration
  • type of items being declared harmful
  • time/s and day/s which each item is to be declared as harmful
  • any other conditions that apply to the declaration, including any exceptions to the ban such as the use of the item in particular classes or under particular circumstances.

Failure to declare an item to be banned from school premises does not in any way prevent a principal from exercising the powers to search for, and/or seize, a harmful item using their powers under the Act.

Items that may be declared banned by a principal

Principals do not need to explicitly ban prohibited items such as daggers, swords, crossbows, flick-knives, ammunition or guns, as such items are controlled under legislation. Principals may however choose to remind the community that such items are not allowed on school premises.

Declarations made by principals must be limited to weapons and other items which the principal reasonably believes are likely to be used in a threatening, violent or harmful manner.

A principal can ban an item or items generally, or for a specified period of time or for specific circumstances. For example, principals may wish to ban the following types of items from schools, either generally, or in specific circumstances:

  • metal rulers (other than in specified classes)
  • baseball bats (other than during supervised physical education classes)
  • glass bottles (other than during designated events taking place after school hours)
  • knives (either generally, or those with a serrated edge or knives with a blade longer than 8 cm).

While items which are being used or are likely to be used in a threatening, violent or harmful manner can be broadly construed, principals should not utilise their powers to ban, search and seize the following harmful or potentially harmful items under the Act, and instead should manage these items in accordance with relevant Department policies:

The Act does not limit other powers that school staff have and schools may manage incidents relating to other types of items in accordance with their local school policies and practices and any other relevant Department policy. This may include asking the student to hand over the item until end of school day, or contacting Victorian Police as appropriate.

Chapter in the Banning, Searching for and Seizing Harmful Items Guidelines outlining a principal's power and the process to declare an item harmful and ban it from school grounds

Reviewed 25 March 2021

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