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Behaviour management and discipline

All South Australian public schools have a written policy setting out expectations of behaviour, forms of unacceptable behaviour and the consequences that could follow.

School responsibility

Schools are required to:

  • provide opportunities and support for students to succeed
  • support students to accept responsibility for their own behaviour
  • work with staff, parents and students to create learning communities that support the rights of students to learn and the right of teachers to teach
  • develop a behaviour code as a statement of the school community's values and expectations in relation to student behaviour and school's management of student behaviour.

Managing student misbehaviour at school

Incidents of student misbehaviour at school are addressed by the school. If a student's behaviour is causing concern the school will contact parents or carers to:

  • advise them of the misbehaviour
  • discuss strategies to address the concern.

The best way of resolving behavioural issues at school is for everyone to work together - the school, parents and students involved.


Suspension from school is an action taken by the principal to address irresponsible behaviour. Suspended students aren’t able to attend school for a period of time ranging from one to five days. The length of the suspension depends on the severity and frequency of the irresponsible behaviour. Suspension from school is intended to:

  • provide support for the student and the school through a problem solving conference
  • protect the learning and safety rights of other members of the school community
  • signal to the community that irresponsible behaviour is not accepted by the school community.

Reasons for suspension

Principals can suspend students when they believe on reasonable grounds that the student has:

  • threatened or perpetrated violence
  • acted in a way that threatens the safety or wellbeing of a student, or member of staff, or other person associated with the school. This includes by sexually harassing, racially vilifying, verbally abusing or bullying that person
  • acted illegally
  • interfered with the ability of a teacher to instruct students or of a student to benefit from teaching
  • acted in a way that threatens the good order of the school by persistently  failing to comply with the school rules about behaviour
  • shown persistent and wilful inattention or indifference to school work.

Suspension decisions are made under the South Australian Education Regulations 2012.

The suspension process

During the suspension period a conference is held to address the causes of the suspension and negotiate a student development plan. The conference includes:

  • the student
  • the school principal or their representative
  • parents or carers.

It may also include:

  • a family support person invited by the parents - eg an extended family member or a social worker
  • other staff who are directly involved - eg a teacher or a counsellor
  • other people who may be able to contribute - eg an interpreter.

Student development plan

At the conference a student development plan is agreed. The plan must address the issues resulting in the suspension and set behavioural and learning goals. The plan details:

  • the behavioural and learning goals the student needs to achieve
  • the support they will need to achieve those goals
  • how progress will be monitored
  • what will happen if the situation doesn't improve.
  • the responsibilities of the school, the student and the parents.

If the conference cannot be held during the suspension period the student is expected to:

  • return to school at the end of the suspension period
  • work on a modified timetable until the conference is held.


There are no formal rights to appeal against suspension from school. This is because the purpose of a suspension is to negotiate a satisfactory outcome for all parties involved.


Exclusion from school is a response to a student's behavioural and learning problems. Students excluded from school cannot attend school for either:

  • a set period of time ranging from four to ten weeks
  • the remainder of a term
  • the remainder of a semester for students over 16 years of age.

The length of the exclusion period is decided by the principal depending on:

  • the severity and frequency of the irresponsible behaviour
  • the length of time needed for the student to achieve specific behavioural goals.

Reasons for exclusion

Exclusion from school is a very serious matter. Students may be excluded for persisting with the same sort of behaviour that leads to suspension, or for more serious behaviour.

The exclusion process

  1. A notice of intention to exclude is given by the principal. The notice suspends the student for up to five days.
  2. During this time a pre-exclusion conference is held. The conference has the same participants, process and aims as a suspension conference. If the student is under 16 years of age, a behaviour coach from the local district education office will also be invited.
  3. After considering information from all parties and setting the necessary learning and behavioural goals for the student, the principal determines whether or not to proceed with the exclusion.

If the principal decides not to proceed with the exclusion, the student will return to school after the suspension period. If the exclusion is to go ahead:

  • the goals and the duration are determined
  • the appeal process is outlined to the student and parent or carers
  • students under 16 may be moved to another school, or referred to a learning centre, or an alternative program
  • a time is set for all parties to meet again and decide whether the exclusion goals have been met.

If the exclusion goals have been achieved, the student's re-entry is planned. If the goals have not been achieved, the exclusion period may be extended.

Concerns and appeals

The appeal process for exclusion from school is outlined at the pre-exclusion conference. A student, parent, carer or another adult acting at the request of the student, parent or carer may appeal an exclusion. An appeal can be lodged on the following grounds:

  • due process not being followed
  • inappropriate length
  • inappropriate conditions of exclusion or expulsion.

Learning centres

Learning centres work in partnership with regional services, schools and centres. They provide short term, intensive programs for students who require intervention beyond the capacity of a mainstream classroom.

The learning centres are for:

  • students who have been excluded from a school
  • students requiring behaviour change and education interventions not available in their home school.

Students need a school referral to the regional support staff to access the learning centre.

What learning centres do

Learning centres provide:

  • programs designed to achieve changes in behaviour and attitude
  • individualised curriculum including intensive literacy and numeracy support
  • social and emotional resilience programs
  • transition programs back to schools
  • pathways to appropriate educational programs.

Learning centres aim to return students to their home schools with a greater range of literacy, numeracy and social skills to support their learning.

Social skills program

Students attending Learning Centre programs will be engaged in learning programs that teach specific and targeted social skills. These skills are embedded in all learning and taught explicitly in topics within three areas, they are:

  • skills for relationship building through positive communication
  • skills for emotional self-management
  • skills for learning.

Topics addressed include:

  • respect
  • conflict resolution
  • anger management
  • personal safety
  • self-regulation
  • personal organisation
  • cooperative learning
  • independent learning.


Learning and Behaviour Unit - Department for Education
Phone: 8226 2557

Better Behaviour Centres

Six Better Behaviour Centres have been established across South Australia.

The two regional centres for secondary students are located on the sites of Murray Bridge High School and Port Lincoln High School.

The four metropolitan centres for primary students are located on the sites of Elizabeth East Primary School, Salisbury Downs Primary School, Woodville Primary School and Huntfield Heights Primary School. The Better Behaviour Centres’ purpose is to restore students’ capacity to engage successfully with mainstream school through early intervention educational programs.

Students in these centres will have individual plans and participate in intensive literacy, numeracy and social skill programs. Each centre has a family coordinator to provide social/emotional support for students and families. The involvement of families will ensure a holistic approach to the implementation of appropriate behaviour management strategies.

For more information, contact Learning and Behaviour on 8226 2557.

Concerns about discipline

If you're concerned about your child's behaviour or how your child's behaviour is being managed at school, contact the school and make a time to speak to the teacher or the principal.

For more information on how to voice any concerns you may have or to make a complaint see Complaints and feedback - school, preschool and kindergarten.

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Page last updated 23 April 2019

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