Suspension considerations

​Guidance for schools on when to consider suspension of a student.

Principals please 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.​

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 where other measures have not produced a satisfactory response. Before considering a suspension, schools should seek to understand the reasons for a student's behaviour and consider alternative educational and wellbeing supports and interventions that can be provided to the student to effectively address the reasons.

The procedures for suspension are set out in Ministerial Order 1125 and detailed further in this guidance.

Repeated or lengthy suspensions may not address the reasons for a student's behaviour and risk leading to poorer outcomes for a student's engagement in education, especially when suspension is used alone without supports and interventions that address the underlying reasons for the incident. The incidents may have occurred for a range of reasons including mental health concerns or circumstances at home, and the student may need additional help.

For more information on support services, guidance and materials on student health and wellbeing at school, see: student health and wellbeing.

To access a summary of procedural requirements, see suspension process flowchart.

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: 

  • behaves in such a way as to pose a danger, whether actual, perceived or threatened, to the health, safety or wellbeing of any person
  • causes significant damage to or destruction of property
  • commits or attempts to commit or is knowingly involved in the theft of property
  • possesses, uses or sells or deliberately assists another person to possess, use or sell illicit substances or weapons
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 on responding to online incidents of concern, see Bully Stoppers: schools and cyber safety and step-by-step guides .

Authority to 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. 

The relevant person

Due to the seriousness of suspension and expulsion, Ministerial Order 1125 requires that students who are subject to suspension and/or expulsion processes have a ‘relevant person’ to participate in the process, provide 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 family to find the best outcome for the student, and connect the school and family to any local or regional supports.

For more information on supporting Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students through a suspension process or to seek the involvement of a KESO, 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 suspend or expel may impact on a number of the student’s visa conditions.

Such visa conditions include:

  • 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 via (03) 9637 3146 or via email legal.services@edumail.vic.gov.au.