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Drugs in schools
All schools, whether government or private, have rules about drugs.
Drugs in state schools
State school principals have wide legal powers to make rules about the conduct of the students at their school and to suspend students who break the rules in a serious way. Most schools have rules against possessing or using drugs at school.
If a student is found possessing or using drugs, they will probably be suspended for at least several days. If a student is caught dealing drugs at school they will probably be expelled, or at least suspended for a lengthy period of time.
The school may also report the student to the police, in which case they may be dealt with by a warning or caution; or charged and brought before the court (the Children's Court if they under 18 years of age).
Teachers do not have the same powers as the police have. Teachers do not have the right to:
- search a student, their clothing or their bag (unless the student agrees to being searched)
hold a student or lock them in a room.
However, teachers can:
- search school property, like a desk or a locker (if the student has not paid to use it)
- confiscate any drugs they find.
The school may call the police, who do have the right to search the student.
Suspension and expulsion
State school principals have the power to suspend students for a limited period of time, but principals don't have the power to expel. A decision to expel a student can only be made by the Department of Education (NSW). The principal must write to the student and their parents or carers if they are considering recommending expulsion to give the student a chance to dispute the reasons or make any other comment. If the principal then decides to recommend expulsion, the student must receive a copy of the principal's submission to the department. The student has 14 days to make any comment.
If a student is suspended or expelled because of drugs and they are not guilty or they think the penalty is too severe, they can appeal to the Secretary of the Department or the Minister for Education and ask that the decision be reconsidered.
Drugs in private schools
Private schools each have different rules. Private school principals usually have more independent authority than their public system equivalents. Generally private schools and state schools could be expected to have a similar approach in cases of possession or supply at school. Expulsion or suspension are likely, depending on the circumstances.
Need more info?
- Read more about drugs and the law in chapter 18 of the Quick Guide to Drugs & Alcohol
- Get the facts about drugs and alcohol in the A to Z of Drugs
- Find more about Drugs and the Law