In Australia, a child from the age of six must be enrolled in a school, or alternatively, the child must be registered for home schooling until the age of 17. Although children are expected to be enrolled in some sort of formal education until the age of 17, what happens if a child is suspended or expelled from school? It’s a good question that is worth exploring due to the fact that there are a number of elements associated with suspending or expelling a child from a government school.
Generally speaking, principals have the authority to suspend or expel a student, and to recommend the expulsion of a student from the government school system.
Principals have the authority to suspend a child on the following grounds:
- the child is persistently disobedient;
- the child exhibits aggressive behaviour;
- the child is engaged in criminal behaviour related to the school.
In the event that a child engages in the following behaviours, the principal can immediately suspend the student if:
- they have engaged in physically violent behaviour that has resulted in pain or injury, or their behaviour has interfered with the safety and wellbeing of other students, staff or other persons;
- has in their possession a prohibited weapon or firearm without reasonable cause;
- uses, is in possession, or supplies a suspected illegal substance excluding alcohol or tobacco.
A student who may be suspended from school is afforded procedural fairness that can include the following:
- interviewing the student prior to the suspension, with the child allowed to have an independent person present;
- providing the student with information relating to the nature of the allegations;
- providing the student with an opportunity to respond to the allegations;
- having consideration for the response of the child before action is taken;
- providing written notification to the parents or caregiver of the child outlining the date, duration, and the reasons behind the decision to suspend the child;
- providing any relevant information to the affected parties outlining the discipline code of the school, and information about the right to appeal.
It is important to note that the decision to suspend by the principal must be impartial.
If a child is sent home before the conclusion of the school day, it can only be done if the parent or caregiver agrees to the action, or they have been formally notified by the principal that the decision has been made to suspend the child.
Before expelling a student from a government school, there are a number of procedural requirements that must be undertaken before the final action is taken. At first instance, the student may be placed on long suspension, which may mean that the student is suspended for 20 school days while a decision is pending. During this period, the student, parents and caregivers are generally provided seven days in which to respond to notification that expulsion may be a possibility.
If the decision is made to expel the student, the child, parents or caregiver must be informed in writing of the action, and the right to appeal must also be included.
Expulsion and the government school system
Both the relevant State or Territory education minister or department (or principal) may make the decision to expel the student and they may be banned from all government schools and may not be able to re-enrol without the approval of the minister.