What are a principal's exclusion powers?
A principal of a state school can exclude a student from their school on the following grounds:
- persistent disobedience
- conduct of the student, including conduct occurring outside of school grounds and outside of school hours, that:
- adversely affects, or is likely to adversely affect other students enrolled at the school
- adversely affects, or is likely to adversely affect the good order and management of the school
- the student's attendance at the school poses an unacceptable risk to the safety or wellbeing of other students or staff of the school
- the student has been convicted of an offence and the principal is reasonably satisfied it would not be in the best interests of other students or staff for the student to continue to be enrolled at the school.
The principal must be satisfied that suspension of the student from the school would be inadequate to deal with the student's behaviour, unless the student poses an unacceptable risk to the safety or wellbeing of other students or staff or the student has been convicted of an offence.
Can a principal just kick a student out of the school?
No. A principal can immediately suspend a student and ask them to leave the school grounds, but there are processes the principal must follow to exclude a student which include:
- telling the student (and his/her parent if the student is aged under 18 years) about the allegations and the information they are using to make their decision
- giving the student and/or his/her parent the chance to respond to the allegations
- telling the student that he/she is immediately suspended while the principal makes a decision about the exclusion
- deciding whether or not to exclude the student within 20 days of giving the letter proposing the exclusion
- taking reasonable steps to arrange for the student to continue with his/her education while suspended
- providing a letter to the student proposing exclusion
- providing the student with a regional case manager.
Can a principal exclude a student for behaviour that occurs outside of school?
Yes, conduct which did not occur on school premises or during school hours can be a reason for exclusion, provided one of the two grounds concerning conduct is used as the basis for proposing the exclusion. The principal may exclude a student from school if they are reasonably satisfied the conduct of the student:
- adversely affects or is likely to adversely affect other students enrolled at the school, or
- adversely affects or is likely to adversely affect the good order and management of the school.
A principal can also exclude a student if they pose an unacceptable risk to the safety or wellbeing of other students and/or staff or if they have been convicted of an offence and the principal is reasonably satisfied it would not be in the best interests of other students or staff for the student to continue to be enrolled at the school.
Can a principal exclude a student with a disability?
Yes, but principals should be familiar with the obligations outlined in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Qld). The school must have records that demonstrate appropriate adjustments have been made to enable the student to understand the behaviour expectations and consequences, access the curriculum, achieve curriculum outcomes and participate in school life on the same basis as other students. A Functional Behaviour Assessment (FBA) is useful for determining reasonable adjustments. Trained regional staff are available to conduct these assessments. However where a student poses an unacceptable risk to the safety and wellbeing of other students and/or staff, the principal may act immediately to suspend the student pending exclusion.
When should a principal refer the exclusion decision to the Director-General?
The principal makes the decision to exclude a student from the school unless the principal or the Director-General reasonably believe it would be inappropriate to do so. For instance, it may be inappropriate for a principal to make the decision to exclude a student if it could be reasonably perceived the principal is biased in making the decision or a conflict of interest exists. In these circumstances the principal recommends the exclusion of a student to the Director-General, or his/her delegate who will make the decision and consider any submissions. An example of bias could be where the principal is the victim of the incident which led to the grounds for the proposed exclusion of the student.
When should a principal recommend an exclusion from certain schools or all schools to the Director-General?
If a principal believes the student's behaviour is serious enough to form the basis of grounds for exclusion from another school or other schools they should recommend to the Director-General that the student be excluded from certain schools. The principal suspends the student with a proposal to exclude from their own school and then recommends the student's exclusion from certain schools to the Director-General for consideration.
A principal's decision to suspend with a proposal to exclude from their school and a decision to recommend exclusion from certain schools to the Director-General are separate matters.
When should a principal contact the Queensland Police Service (QPS)?
The Queensland Police Service should be contacted when the principal plans to apply a disciplinary consequence because the student has been/may have been convicted. Where police are investigating an incident the principal is not prohibited from investigating the matter and can take disciplinary action. The principal should speak with the investigating officer to ensure the school investigation does not compromise the QPS investigation. The primary responsibility of the principal is to maintain the good order and management of the school and manage the risk a student may present to other students and staff.
New guidelines have been developed to assist principals with requesting information from the Queensland Police Commissioner (DOC, 442KB) and guidance around undertaking risk assessment (DOC, 1.0MB).
What are the principal's obligations to provide natural justice if a language other than English is spoken by the student and/or parent/s?
It is important for principals to ascertain whether interpretation or translation services are required by the student and/or parent/s to ensure that the exclusion processes are understood by all parties involved.
What is the timeframe for making an exclusion decision?
The principal has 20 school days to make the final exclusion decision. This timeframe begins on the day the notice proposing exclusion is given to the student.
Who does a principal contact about exclusion matters if the student does not live with parent/s or carer/s at home?
If the student is subject to an order granting guardianship or custody to the Chief Executive, Department of Communities, the respective Child Safety Service Centre Manager is contacted. Where the student is independent the principal should deal directly with the student concerned and/or an adult support person nominated by the student.
What is the process if the principal decides not to exclude?
When the principal makes the decision not to exclude the student, the student is told they can return to school immediately. A formal notice of the decision is given to the student (posted or hand delivered) as soon as possible after telling them of the decision. The student does not have to wait to receive this notice before returning to school.
Can a student continue to attend a work experience placement during the suspension period before a final exclusion decision is made?
If the principal considers it appropriate, the student may continue to attend a work experience placement during the suspension period in consultation with the work experience provider, unless attendance at school is a necessary part of the placement. The principal needs to be familiar with their obligations in relation to information sharing.
What detail is required in the exclusion notice?
It is important that students and their parents understand the reasons for an exclusion decision. Giving reasons promotes fairness, transparency and accountability in decision making. The term 'reasons' is defined by legislation and means:
- findings on material questions of fact
- a reference to the evidence or other material on which the findings are based
- the reasons for the decision.
The exclusion notice in OneSchool will require a principal to insert facts, evidence and reasons for both the proposal to exclude and the final exclusion decision.
Who will help the student to get into a new school or program if he/she is excluded?
A case manager is allocated who will:
- support the student while he/she is suspended, pending a decision about his/her exclusion
- assist the student/parent to understand the submission processes
- work with the student to identify another school or suitable education or training program if the student is excluded
- negotiate the student's enrolment with the principal of the new school if necessary
- assist with the development of any individual plan in the new school if necessary
- follow up with the student and/or the parent within one month of the student's enrolment in a new school or eligible education or training option, and again within six months to ensure his/her continued engagement.
Who do principals contact if they require advice about exclusion processes?
Principals should contact the Principal Advisor, Education Services or nominated officer in their respective regional office.
Processes regarding exclusions are outlined in detail in the Safe, supportive and disciplined school environment procedure. OneSchool also guides the principal through these steps.