Standing-down, Suspension, Exclusion and Expulsion

A state school's power to control students stems from the common law doctrine of loco parentis and the Education Act 1989. The Act contains specific provisions dealing with standing-down, suspension, exclusion, and expulsion, and these provisions are designed to provide a range of appropriate responses for cases of varying degrees of seriousness, to minimise disruption to a student's attendance at school and facilitate a return to school when appropriate, and to ensure that individual cases are dealt with in accordance with the principles of natural justice.

There are also general provisions. A school board of trustees has the power to control and manage the school as it thinks fit, and may make any bylaws it thinks necessary or desirable for this purpose. The school principal has the power to manage the school's day to day administration in accordance with the board's general policy directions.

The principal of a state school may stand-down or suspend a student if satisfied on reasonable grounds that:

  • the student's gross misconduct or continual disobedience is a harmful or is a dangerous example to other students at the school; or
  • because of the student's behaviour, it is likely that the student or other students at the school will be seriously harmed if the student is not stood down or suspended.

Gross misconduct is misconduct of the most serious kind, and of a character sufficiently grave to warrant permanently removing the student from the school, notwithstanding the damage that may be done to the student. Whether an act amounts to gross misconduct will depend on all the circumstances surrounding the act and cannot be predetermined by school rules or practices. The principal's opinion may be found subjectively, but in any subsequent determination made by the board of trustees the test is an objective one.

Note that stand-downs are for specified periods that may not in total exceed more than five school days in a school term, or 10 school days in a year. The principal may lift a stand-down before it has expired. While stood down or suspended, a student is not permitted to attend the school unless the student's parents have requested that the student be permitted to attend and the principal considers the request is reasonable, or may attend for the purpose of receiving guidance and counselling. Immediately after standing-down or suspending a student, the principal must advise the Secretary of Education and a parent of the student, if the student is under 20 years of age, of the decision and the reasons for it, and must in the case of a suspension provide a written report containing all relevant information to the board.