Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders


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School discipline clarification

The powers to discipline which came into force this year appear still to be causing some confusion. ASCL members are advised that, while the ability to discipline students when they are not on site and under the school's control is important, there are limits to its use.

While schools are allowed, if they wish, to make rules of conduct for students while they are off site and to punish them if they break these rules, it does not give teachers the power to give instructions to students when they are not under the school's authority.

For instance, a teacher may not tell a student what to do or confiscate goods if they simply happen to be traveling on the same bus service. A teacher may warn a student of the consequences of his/her conduct but that is all. Teachers need to be clear about this or they may be vulnerable to action by parents.

If a school chooses to investigate an action out of school, with the possibility of punishing a student, the school needs to be sure of the validity of the evidence it receives.

While it may be unnecessary to insist on a formal 'statement of truth', evidence should be in writing. A phone call roughly committed to memory, even from a police officer, may not meet the standards of the balance of probability, certainly not where the heightened standard, 'distinctly more probable than not' is demanded, in cases where the investigation is of a criminal offence.

Members can also rest assured that the act does not suggest that schools should take responsibility for dealing with juvenile crime in their area or crimes committed by their students.

The intent of the law is that schools are not responsible for policing the activities of students once they have left its charge. That is principally the duty of parents and, where criminal offences are involved, the police.

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