If your child is facing suspension or expulsion, you need to understand the process and your child’s rights. It’s also a good idea to seek support early, for example from an advocacy organisation like ACD.
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Under the Victorian Government’s Student Engagement Policy (see our Tools and resources section for links), a student must not be suspended or expelled from school except in the most extreme cases, and only if the school has tried every other way of dealing with the student’s misbehaviour.
Challenges in meeting your child’s learning needs
In very serious cases where suspension or expulsion of a student is being considered, the principal has a legal obligation to ensure that the suspension or expulsion is appropriate having regard to any disability of the student. This decision will take into account what reasonable adjustments have been made for the student and any other adjustments that may be available to address the student’s behaviour. It is necessary for the principal to take such considerations into account, whether or not the school receives PSD funding for the student.
Key issues for families and students
The processes for suspension and expulsion of a student are set out very clearly in the Student Engagement Policy (see our Tools and resources section for links), and is summarised below. In ACD’s experience, the main issues for parents and carers are that often the school does not inform them about the process and their role in it, and that sometimes schools do not follow the process as set out in the policy – including what must be considered in relation to students with a disability or additional needs who are facing suspension or expulsion.
For these reasons, it’s a good idea to be informed about what the process should be, and to get advice and advocacy support as soon as possible.
The principal is the only person that can make a decision about suspending your child. When making a decision, they must consider issues like: disruption to your child’s learning, their disability and social background, their home circumstances and their educational needs.
Behaviours that can lead to suspension are listed on the DET website – search under ‘Suspensions’. Any one period of suspension cannot be for more than 5 days, and a student may not be suspended for a total of more than 15 days in a school year.
If your child is facing suspension, you must be notified ahead of time, or at the time if the suspension is ‘immediate’ (which can only happen if your child is putting themselves or someone else at risk).
If your child is suspended for three days or less, the school must provide meaningful work for your child to do at home. If your child is suspended for more than three days, the school must provide a ‘Student Absence Learning Plan’ and a ‘Return to school plan’.
During or soon after the suspension, the school should meet with you and any professionals involved in supporting your child, to discuss your child’s behaviour and strategies for addressing the underlying issues and preventing another suspension. This is ‘strongly recommended’ by DET for students with a disability. As always in meetings with the school, you have the right to bring an independent support person (not a lawyer – see How to find an advocate or support person).
- Read about how an advocate can help.
Expulsion is the most serious disciplinary measure available, and must only be used if a student’s behaviour is so serious that expulsion is the only available mechanism, and all other measures have been exhausted (the school must be able to show this). Behaviours that can lead to expulsion and conditions that must be met to expel a student are listed on the DET website – search under ‘Expulsions’.
If your child is facing expulsion, as soon as possible, the principal must arrange a Behaviour Review Conference, to be attended by:
- You (or another adult you and/or your child nominate) and your child
- An independent support person of your choice (this could be a trained advocate, although not a lawyer, or a friend or family member – see How an advocate can help)
- An interpreter, if you need one
- A Koorie Education Support Officer (KESO), if appropriate
- A ‘Regional Approved Support Person’ (see the DET website), who assists the principal with the process.
This meeting is your opportunity to hear and respond to the grounds on which expulsion is being considered, and to provide information you think is relevant to the decision. The meeting should discuss adjustments that have been made to support your child’s behaviour, other adjustments that could be made if your child stays at school, your child’s education options if they are expelled, and a transition plan to support this, if a decision is made to expel.
If you or your child cannot or do not attend this meeting (and do not send a nominated person in your absence), it can be conducted without you. The principal can nominate another ‘Regional Approved Support Person’ to support your child if needed. If you do not attend, the principal must record key points of the discussion and send them to you.
In considering whether to expel your child, the principal must assess that course of action against their legal obligations, including under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006. They must also consider:
- All information provided by you and your child
- Advice from relevant professionals including KESOs and Student Support Service Officers
- Your child’s behaviour, and other ways it could be addressed
- Your child’s disability, educational needs, age, home and social circumstances
- Your child’s education options, if they are expelled.
If the principal decides not to expel your child, they should call a Student Support Group meeting to plan any further supports or adjustments needed. If the principal decides to expel your child, they must make a detailed Expulsion Report providing their reasons, and all information considered in making the decision. This is an important document to refer to, if you decide to appeal against the suspension. The principal must also give you an Appeal Form.
It is the principal’s responsibility to support your child’s transition to a new school, training or employment, and to give your child meaningful work (at school or at home) until they are enrolled in the new setting.
- It’s a good idea to seek information and support as soon as possible, if your child is facing expulsion or has been expelled.