Searches and confiscations

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Disclaimer: This page explains the law about searches and confiscations at public schools in Western Australia. If you have any questions about searches and confiscations at a private school, you can contact us here and please include the name of your school.

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Can a teacher search my stuff?

Teachers can only search your stuff without your permission if they think it’s reasonably necessary to manage or care for students, maintain order or prevent you placing others’ safety at risk or damaging or any property.  A teacher can search your desk, locker and bag if it’s necessary to do these things.  They don’t need your permission to do this.

If a teacher wants to search you for a reason not mentioned above, then they need your permission.  If you don’t give permission to be searched, the school can’t search you or your stuff but they can punish you for disobeying them if they have a reasonable reason for asking.   They can also call the police who can search you without your permission.

You can look at your school’s rules or policies to see what they say about searches.  If you don’t have a copy of these documents, you can ask the school to give you a copy.

Can my parents give permission for a teacher to search me?

Your parents can only give permission on your behalf if you are so young that you cannot make your own decisions.

Can a teacher search my body?

A teacher shouldn’t make physical contact with your body. If the school or teacher wants to search your body, they should call the police to do this.

Can teachers call the police to carry out a search?

Yes. The school can ask the police to search you if they believe you have drugs, weapons or other banned objects on you and you don’t give them permission.  Before the school calls the police they should contact your parents before the search begins. Police can search you without your permission if they think you have something stolen or illegal, including a weapon or drugs.

If you are found with objects against the law on you, don’t panic. You do not have to go with the police unless you are arrested. If you are arrested, you can phone your parents or an adult you trust and ask them to come to the station. Do not make a statement to the police until a trusted adult arrives and never attempt to run away from the police or give a false name. 


When can the school confiscate my stuff?

The law protects your right to have your own stuff and not have anyone take it from you without permission- but this is balanced with the rights for schools to make reasonable rules to ensure the safety of other students and the good order and management of the school.

Your school can confiscate anything that is banned under your school rules or anything the school thinks is likely to disrupt good order, adversely affect the safety or welfare of other people at school or cause damage to property.  

What items can the school ban?

If you look at your school’s rules, you can see a list of things that has been banned.  If you don’t have a copy of the rules, you can ask for one. Your school can also ban things by making an announcement to classes or in assembly.    

What happens if the school confiscates my stuff? When can I get it back?

Anything that’s confiscated can be picked up by your parents (unless you’re already over 18 or living independently).  The school has to give it back to you within an appropriate period of time.  The law doesn’t say how long this is, but you must be able to get it back by the end of the school year. However, if the school has handed the item to police, it’s up to the police to decide when you get it back. You can talk to the police officer involved to find out how you can get your stuff back. The principal is to return the bag or other property within an appropriate amount of time (no later than the end of the school year), unless it has already been given to parents or police.    

What about mobile phones and other electronic devices (iPods/mp3 players/iPads/tablets/laptops)?

You’re not allowed to use a mobile phone in class at all.  Outside of class, some schools allow you to use your phone at recess and lunch, while others ban them completely and you have to leave them in your bag. If you’re not sure what the rules are for your school, you can ask them for a copy.  Some schools may require that such devices be turned off and out of sight during lessons, assemblies and meetings. They also may state that mobile phones may only be used during recess, lunch breaks and before or after school. Other schools may allow devices such as laptops and tablets for teaching purposes.

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