School discipline

Introduction

The board of management of a school must draw up a code of behaviour for students. The code must also set out how students will be punished for breaching it.

Disciplinary procedures can include suspension and expulsion. To appeal a suspension or expulsion, you must do so in writing within 42 days of the decision by the board of management. For more information on how to appeal a suspension or expulsion from school – see below.

Code of behaviour for students

When your child starts school, the principal must give you a copy of the school’s code of behaviour. You may also be asked to agree to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that your child complies with the code.

A code of behaviour in a school must set out the following:

  • Types of behaviour by the student that may need disciplinary measures
  • Nature of the disciplinary measures that must be taken
  • Procedures to be followed before a student is suspended or expelled
  • Grounds for lifting a suspension

Department of Education guidelines recommend that the prevention of bullying should be a fundamental part of a written code of behaviour and discipline in all schools.

Codes are drawn up with input from teachers, parents and the educational welfare officer. Educational welfare officers work for the Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) and they help co-ordinate all policies concerning both attendance and broader educational welfare.

There are Guidelines for Schools on Developing a Code of Behaviour (pdf) and information for parents and guardians about schools on the Tusla website.

Discipline in schools

Schools have considerable independence in the area of discipline. However, they must use fair procedures. This includes hearing the student's case.

Schools must have a code of behaviour that sets out how students will punished for breaching it. It is assumed that parents agree to the punishments set out in the code of behaviour, if they are told about the code when their child starts school. As a result, if the punishment is detention, the parents or student cannot claim that the student has been falsely imprisoned.

The Department provides guidelines to primary schools about developing policy on school discipline and guidelines to second-level shcools about developing policy on school discipline.

Corporal punishment

Under Section 24 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, corporal punishment of students may be a crime. However, Sections 18 and 20 of the Act permit the justifiable use of force in certain circumstances, for example, self defence or defence of others.

National Behaviour Support Service

A National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) was set up to help second-level schools deal with disruptive behaviour. The service works with selected schools that have significant discipline problems. The NBSS operates through 4 regional behaviour support teams. A team of professionals, including psychologists, works intensively with a school over a period of time to help identify the school's problems and improve student behaviour. In some cases the team may recommend setting up a behaviour support classroom in a school.

What happens if my child is suspended from school?

If there has been serious misbehaviour, the school’s board of management or the school principal may decide to suspend your child. The process for suspension should be set out in the school’s code of behaviour.

The school will notify the parents of the suspension. If your child is suspended they will keep their place in the school. This means that they can return to the school at the end of their suspension.

If your child is suspended from school for 20 days or more in a school year, you have the right to appeal this decision to the Department of Education. You must appeal within 42 days of the decision to suspend your child – see ‘How to appeal a suspension or expulsion from school’ below.

What happens if my child is expelled from school?

Before your child is expelled, the school must tell the educational welfare officer in writing of its decision. The educational welfare officer may then try to find a solution. Your child cannot be expelled until 20 days after the educational welfare officer has been notified about the case.

If your child is expelled they will lose their place at the school.

You can appeal the decision to expel your child from school to the Department of Education. You must appeal within 42 days of the decision – see ‘How to appeal a suspension or expulsion’ below.

How to appeal a suspension or expulsion from school

If your child is expelled from school or suspended for 20 days or more in a school year, you have the right to appeal the decision under Section 29, of the Education Act 1998.

You must appeal in writing within 42 days of the decision by the board of management.

The following people can make an appeal:

  • The student’s parent(s)
  • The student, if they are aged over 18
  • Tusla may in certain cases appoint an independent person to appeal the suspension or expulsion of a student

You must complete and return a Section 29 Appeal form to the Section 29 Appeals Administration Unit within 42 days of the date of the decision by the board of management – see ‘Where to send your appeal’ below.

Appeal hearing

You will be asked to attend an appeal hearing. You can bring 2 other people with you. However, they cannot make a statement at the hearing unless the appeals committee allows them to do so.

If the student is aged over 18, he or she can attend the hearing.

The hearing is normally held within 21 days of the Department getting your completed Section 29 appeal form.

At the hearing, your appeal will be heard by an appeals committee of 3 people. You and the school can present your case and have a right of reply. Members of the appeal committee may ask you questions.

The appeals committee may invite people with relevant expertise to attend or make a statement such as Tusla or the National Council of Special Education.

The committee is appointed by the Minister of Education, but independent of the Department. In making its decision, the appeal committee must consider factors such as the nature of the behaviour, the explanation offered, the efforts made by the school to help the student, educational interests of your child and the effect on other students. They will also consider any safety, health and welfare issues for students and staff.

Outcome of your appeal

After the hearing, the appeals committee will write to you and the other participants with their preliminary decision and the reasons for their decision.

You and the other participants have an opportunity to respond in writing within 7 days of the preliminary decision being issued.

The appeals committee will then make its final decision. You will be sent a copy of the final decision and the reasons for the decision.

If your appeal is allowed

If the final decision of the appeal committee is to allow your appeal, your child will be readmitted to the school.

The suspension or expulsion will be removed from your child’s school record.

If your appeal is refused

If the appeal committee agrees with the decision to suspend your child from school, your child can return to their school at the end of their suspension.

If the appeal committee agrees with the decision to expel your child from school, your child cannot return to their school. However, Tusla’s Education Support Services (TESS) can assist you in getting a new school placement for your child.

The Department of Education has answers to frequently asked questions on appealing a suspension or expulsion (pdf).

Where to send your appeal

You must complete and return a Section 29 Appeal form to the Section 29 Appeals Administration Unit within 42 days of the date of the decision by the board of management.

Department of Education

Section 29 Appeals Administration Unit
Department of Education
Friar’s Mill Road
Mullingar
Co Westmeath
N91 H30Y



Page edited: 14 December 2020