Suspension process

Investigations, decisions, notification and follow up for the school suspension process.

​Principals note that throughout this guidance anything that is a legal obligation under Ministerial Order 1125 is written as 'the principal must'. Where the guidance states that 'the principal should', this is a best practice recommendation.​

First steps: before suspension

Determine if suspension is an option

Suspension is a serious disciplinary measure and is best reserved for incidents when other measures have not produced a satisfactory response.

A principal may only suspend a student if the location and nature of their behaviour meets certain conditions. For information on when suspension may be an option, see 'Grounds for Suspension' under suspension considerations.

Conduct a preliminary investigation

The principal should conduct a thorough investigation to establish the nature of the behaviour/s, the student who committed those behaviour/s, the context in which it was committed, and any other relevant circumstances in relation to the incident or behaviour.

The principal must identify the student's relevant person in accordance with part 2 of the Ministerial Order.

Consider options

When determining if suspension is appropriate for a particular student, consideration should be given to:

  • the behaviour for which suspension is being considered
  • the educational needs of the student
  • any disability of the student (disability is defined under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, it is not limited to students in receipt of specialist services or Program for Students with Disability funding)
  • the age of the student
  • the residential and social circumstances of the student, including whether the student is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or culturally and linguistically diverse background or is in out of home care
  • previous incidences of challenging behaviour and the support/disciplinary measures employed to respond to these.

For more information, see responding to challenging behaviour.

Before proceeding a suspension the principal must ensure the following:

  • that the student has had the opportunity to be heard
  • that any information or documentation provided by the student or the relevant person has been taken into account in making the decision regarding the suspension; and
  • other forms of action to address the behaviour for which the student is being suspended have been considered.

Schools should also consider alternative interventions and supports that can be provided to the student to address the reasons for the behaviour before proceeding to suspension.

For a summary of key wellbeing interventions and supports available to Victorian government schools, see: interim map of wellbeing interventions (pdf - 609.86kb).

Next steps: decision, notification and action

In making their decision, the principal should consider their legal obligations and principles of administrative decision making.

Under Victorian Law, in deciding whether to suspend a student, principals must undertake an assessment of that course of action under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.

In addition, when determining  whether to suspend a student with a disability, principals must be sure that reasonable adjustments have been made to assist the student to manage the behaviours where this is a manifestation of disability. 

If the behaviour of a student meets the grounds for suspension and the principal decides to suspend, he or she must determine:

  • whether the suspension will be undertaken in school or out of school 
  • the day on which the suspension will commence (including whether it will be an immediate suspension)
  • the period of suspension.

For information to guide these decisions, see suspension considerations.

Prior to the suspension taking effect, or on the day of taking immediate action, the principal must complete all of the following: 

  1. Identify the relevant person in accordance with part 2 of the Ministerial Order
  2. Notify the student (verbally) and the relevant person (via telephone or in person) of the reason/s for the suspension, the school days on which the suspension shall occur where the suspension will occur
  3. Provide contact details for additional support services to the student and the relevant person as appropriate
  4. Arrange for appropriate school work to be provided to the student for the period of the suspension as follows, where the student is supsended for:
    • three days or less, provide meaningful work
    • more than three days, develop a student absence learning plan and return to school plan
    • more than five days, in addition to the above requirements, a teacher should be designated as a key point of contact for the student and their family.
  5. Provide the student and the relevant person with a Notice of Suspension which must include:
    • the reasons for the suspension
    • the school days on which the suspension shall occur
    • and copies of the student absence learning plan and return to school plan (if required)
  6. Provide the student and their relevant person with a copy of the parent brochure - procedures following suspension. Consistent with the charter and discrimination legislation, documentation should be provided in alternative formats and community languages in order to meet the communication needs of the student and relevant person
  7. Record the suspension on CASES21. For support to record the suspension in CASES21 refer to Chapter 6 merit and discipline in the CASES21 administration guide at About CASES21

It is important to discuss the reasons for the suspension with the student so that they understand why it is happening and what needs to change. Giving the student the opportunity to have a voice and influence in the discussion helps to foster their engagement in the process. This engagement enables the student to take ownership over and make changes to their behaviour.

Final steps: post-suspension follow up and support

The principal should consider whether it is appropriate to convene a student support group meeting with the student, the relevant person, and any other adults or professionals involved in the care of the student. The purpose of such a meeting is to discuss the student's behaviour that led to the suspension, and to discuss a range of strategies to address the concerns and prevent further occurrences of such behaviour.

It is strongly recommended that a meeting be convened if one or more of the following circumstances apply:

  • a student and/or their relevant person requests a meeting
  • a student has a disability, is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or is in out-of-home care
  • there have been three or more suspensions in the school year
  • the student has been suspended for the maximum five consecutive days.

For more information on student support groups, see engagement strategies for individual students

In all cases of suspension, it is important to consider the student's transition back into school and any disruption to their learning. In many cases, the student will require additional educational or other supports to help address the reasons for the incident and/or any underlying behavioural issues.

Repeated or lengthy suspensions may not address the reasons for a student's behaviour and risks leading to poorer outcomes for a student's engagement in education, especially when suspension is used alone without interventions and supports that address the underlying reasons for the incident(s).

For information on the supports available, see strategies and supports available to schools.

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