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Weapons and Other Harmful Items – Banning, Searching and Seizing

Policy

The purpose of this policy is to support principal class staff to understand and implement their powers to ban, search for and seize harmful items.

Summary

  • Principals have the power to ban items from being brought onto school premises if the principal reasonably believes the item is likely to be used in a threatening, violent or harmful manner.
  • Principals, assistant principals and authorised teachers also have the power to search for and seize harmful items.
  • Any ban, search or seizure of a harmful item must be conducted in accordance with this policy and associated guidance, available on the Guidance tab.

Details

Principals and assistant principals have the power to ban, search for and seize certain harmful items under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) (the Act) and the Education and Training Reform (School Safety) Regulations 2011 (Vic).

Schools must follow the steps set out in the Guidance tab when considering or taking action in relation to banning, searching for or seizing a harmful item using their powers under the Act.

Harmful items within the banning, searching and seizing powers

Under the Act, a harmful item, for the purpose of the banning, searching and seizing powers, is:

  • any item(s) that the principal has declared as a harmful item and banned using their powers under the Act
  • any item that is a prohibited item (outlined in legislation covering firearms, controlled and prohibited weapons, such as firearms, ammunition, certain knives, blow guns, studded gloves)
  • any item that the principal, assistant principal or authorised teacher reasonably suspects is being used or is likely to be used in a threatening, violent or harmful manner

Note: for a list of items that are prohibited items, refer to Prohibited Items — Firearms, Controlled and Prohibited Weapons (Word).

The Guidance tab outlines the process of authorising teachers to search for and seize a harmful item.

Declaring and banning harmful items

A principal may ban items from being brought on to school premises which the principal reasonably believes are likely to be used in a threatening, violent or harmful manner by making a 'declaration of harmful item(s)'.

In making a declaration:

  • Principals must state as exempt from any declaration, items which students may legitimately possess (for example, for religious purposes or as a disability aid).
  • Principals do not need to explicitly ban prohibited items.

A template 'Declaration of Harmful Item' is available on the Resources tab.

The process of making a 'declaration of harmful item' is useful to address or prevent violent, threatening or harmful behaviour on the school site (that is for known issues or risks of violence or harm). Declaring and banning the harmful item clearly communicates the school’s expectations and provides a deterrent, as the declaration provides a clear basis for searching and seizing the banned item.

However, a declaration of harmful item is not a prerequisite for searching for or seizing any item that the principal, assistant principal or authorised teacher reasonably suspects is being used, or is likely to be used, in a threatening, violent or harmful manner (that is schools always retain the discretion to respond on an ad hoc basis to incidents or risks of violence or harm).

Searching for and seizing harmful items

Principals or their delegates must only search for and seize a harmful item under the Act when it is safe to do so. The seized item must be stored safely in accordance with the instructions on the Guidance tab.

As outlined above, a principal, assistant principal or authorised teacher can search for and seize any item that they reasonably suspect is being used, or is likely to be used, in a threatening, violent or harmful manner, irrespective of whether it has first been declared as harmful and banned.

Where a school activity is taking place and neither the principal nor assistant principal are present, they may authorise a teacher to search and seize the harmful item. The Guidance tab outlines the process of authorising teachers. However, a teacher may refuse to be authorised, for the purpose of searching for and seizing a harmful item.  

Other items that may be considered harmful

While principals’ power to ban harmful items may be broadly construed, principals should not utilise their powers to ban, search for and seize certain items under the Act. These items are:

  • Cigarettes and alcohol — schools should manage this item by asking the student to relinquish the item and, as soon as practicable, return it to the student’s parents. refer to Alcohol and Other Drug Use — Students for further information.
  • Illicit drugs — schools must always contact police as soon as illicit drug possession is identified and ask them to seize the illicit drugs from the student (note: possession of illicit drugs is an offence). Refer to Alcohol and Other Drug — Students for further information.
  • Mobile phones — student use of mobile phones at school or school activities must be managed in accordance with the Department’s policy on Mobile Phones — Student Use.

Note: 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/or 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.

Target shooting in the curriculum

If target shooting is part of the school's curriculum, principals will need to consider what arrangements are in place for the carriage, use and storage of the firearms before, during and after the activity in their planning and risk assessment of the activity.

Principals must also ensure that target shooting activities are conducted in a safe and responsible manner and that participants hold the appropriate licenses to engage in the activity (for example, a person aged between 12 and 18 may be issued a Junior Licence to carry certain categories of weapons but only for the purpose of receiving instruction in the use of firearms or engaging in sport or target shooting competitions).

Principals should consult with the Department's Security and Emergency Management Division about planning for such activities.

Relevant legislation

Department policy on principal powers to ban, search for and seize harmful items

Reviewed 25 March 2021

Policy last updated

15 June 2020

Scope

  • Schools

Contact

Policy and Intelligence Unit Security and Emergency Management Division

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