Suspension Considerations

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

Principals please note that throughout this guidance anything that is a legal obligation under Ministerial Order 625 is written as 'the principal must'.  Where the guidance states that 'the principal should', this is a best practice recommendation.​

Suspension

Suspension is the process of excluding a student from the standard instruction or educational opportunities being provided to other students at the school for part of a day, a full day, or multiple days. 

Suspension is a serious disciplinary measure and is best reserved for incidents when other measures have not produced a satisfactory response. The procedures for suspension are set out in Ministerial Order 625 and detailed further in this guidance.

To access a summary of procedural requirements, see: Suspension Process Flowchart

To meet the suspension process requirements you may also wish to use the suspension checklist, see: Suspension Process Checklist

Grounds for suspension

In order for suspension to be an option, the following conditions must be in place:

The student’s behaviour must have occurred:

  • whilst attending school;
  • or travelling to or from school;
  • or while engaged in any school activity away from the school;
  • or travelling to or from any school activity.

The student’s behaviour must meet one or more of the following conditions: 

a) behaves in such a way as to pose a danger, whether actual, perceived or threatened, to the health, safety or wellbeing of any person;

b) causes significant damage to or destruction of property;

c) commits or attempts to commit or is knowingly involved in the theft of property;

d) possesses, uses or sells or deliberately assists another person to possess, use or sell illicit substances or weapons;

e) fails to comply with any clear and reasonable instruction of a staff member  so as to pose a danger, whether actual, perceived or threatened, to the health, safety or wellbeing of any person;

f) consistently engages in behaviour that vilifies, defames, degrades or humiliates another person based on age; breastfeeding; gender; identity; impairment; industrial activity; lawful sexual activity; marital status; parent/carer status or status as a carer; physical features; political belief or activity; pregnancy; race; religious belief or activity; sex; sexual orientation; personal association (whether as a relative or otherwise) with a person who is identified by reference to any of the above attributes;

g) consistently behaves in an unproductive manner that interferes with the wellbeing, safety or educational opportunities of any other student.

Please note: For incidents between students that occur outside of school hours or in locations other than those listed above, a suspension cannot be used as a response. The impact of cyberbullying (and other behaviours) outside of school hours/off school premises on schools is acknowledged, however, if the behaviour occurs solely outside of school hours/grounds suspension is not an available recourse. If incidents outside of school hours are connected to behaviour that does meet the grounds and location requirements for suspension, this external behaviour may be considered when determining the response to an in-school incident. ​

For more information, see Bully Stoppers: Schools and Cybersafety and Step-by-step Guides (for responding to online incidents of concern).

Authority t​​o suspend a student

Only principals have authority to make the final decision to suspend a student. This authority cannot be delegated.

School staff may provide advice to inform the principal's decision whether to suspend a student and may assist in the management of the student’s behaviour and/or in communications with the parents, carers or relevant persons. Principals hold ultimate responsibility for ensuring that all processes are followed, correctly. 

​In-school suspension

When considering the decision to suspend a student, it may also be useful to explore an in-school suspension. An in-school suspension is where the student is excluded from the standard instruction or educational opportunities being provided to other students, but can still undertake educational activities on the school premises for the period of the suspension.

In-school suspensions should focus on encouraging the student to exhibit more positive behaviour, to increase their level of participation and where appropriate, to learn problem solving and/or conflict resolution skills.

Options for in-school suspension include:

  • Having the student accompany an experienced teacher/appropriate staff member to their classes for the day 
  • Participating in a work-based in-school suspension (e.g. working outdoors or preparation of educational materials)
  • Providing a dedicated room or area where students can complete school work under appropriate supervision.

The same process (including record-keeping) must be followed for in-school suspension as for out of school suspensions. ​

Immediate suspensions

The principal may implement a suspension with immediate effect if the student's behaviour is such that they are putting the health, safety and wellbeing of themselves, or any other person at significant risk.

Where an immediate suspension is imposed, the principal has a duty of care to provide supervision of the student until they can be collected by a parent, carer, or an emergency contact nominated by the parent or carer. If the parent, carer or emergency contact is unable to collect the student, the student must be adequately supervised by a member of staff until the end of the school day.

It may be appropriate to implement a suspension with an immediate effect whilst the student is on an excursion or school camp. In these situations, if a student’s parent, carer or emergency contact is unable to collect the student, they will need to be supervised until the end of the camp or excursion. If this is the case, it is suggested that the student be removed from any activity organised as part of the excursion or camp. It may also be suitable to assign the student an appropriate task or school work to go on with.

Period of suspension

Suspending a student can have serious implications for the student’s engagement in learning therefore suspension should be applied for the shortest time necessary. ​In determining the period of suspension, the principal must note:

  • The period of suspension must not exceed five school days.
  • The suspension must not result in the student being suspended for more than 15 school days in the school year unless there is prior written approval from the Regional Director. To seek approval from the Regional Director you can use the Request for Approval - Suspension Over 15 Days Form
  • If the period of the suspension is longer than the days left in the term, the principal should consider the likely disruption to the student’s learning before imposing a suspension that will continue into the following term.

​​The relevant person

Due to the seriousness of suspension and expulsion, Ministerial Order 625 requires that students who are subject to suspension and/or expulsion processes have a ‘relevant person’ to participate in the process to support and advocate for them. For most students this will be a parent or carer. 

In situations where the parent or carer is unavailable or unwilling to act as the relevant person for their child, they can nominate an alternative relevant person.  For more information on this role, see: Identifying a Relevant Person.

​​Suspension of ​Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

When considering a suspension for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander student, a principal should engage a Koorie Engagement Support Officer (KESO). The KESO can support the school and the family to find the best outcome for the student and also connect the school and family to any local or regional resources to assist.

For more information on supporting Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students through a suspension process or to seek the involvement of a KESO, contact the Koorie Education Coordinator. See: Koorie Education Coordinator Contact Details​​​​

Overseas students 

When considering appropriate discipline for overseas students, otherwise known as international students, it is important to note that the decision to expel may impact on a number of the student’s visa conditions.

Such visa conditions can include the following:

  • The student must attend 80 per cent of classes
  • The student must make satisfactory progress.

Schools enrolling international students are required to contact the International Education Division which manages the deferment, suspension and cancellation of international student enrolments.

For more information on International Student Program Quality Standard 13 - Deferment, suspension or cancellation of study during enrolment, see: ISP Quality Standards and School Resources.

Students with separated parents

For students who have separated parents, it important to remember that suspension and expulsion are serious disciplinary measures and therefore all parents and carers are entitled to be notified of the intention to suspend or expel the student.

In circumstances where there is more than one parent or carer who would like to participate in the suspension and expulsion process, it is important to involve all of them in the process.

If the principal of a Victorian government school needs advice and assistance on how to proceed with the suspension or expulsion in these circumstances, it is strongly recommended that they contact the Department’s Legal Division. The Legal Division can be contacted on (03) 9637 3146 or via email on legal.services@edumail.vic.gov.au​​​​​​​