Procedural fairness

St Alcuin College Policy:  PROCEDURAL FAIRNESS

(August 2012)

In keeping with the best practices guidelines established by the Federation of Independent School Associations, St Alcuin has an appeals process in place to allow for the impartial review of school decisions.

Whenever the legal rights of an individual may be affected by officials exercising legal decision-making authority, there is an expectation that the decision will be made in accordance with the principles of “procedural fairness” and “natural justice”. These principles encompass the following elements:

  • if a decision-maker (e.g., a principal or authority) is intending to consider a matter which may affect a person’s rights, that person should be informed of the matter;
  • the person should be given a reasonable opportunity to make oral or written submissions to the decision-maker on the matter being considered;
  • the person is entitled to know and answer the case against them, that is to say, be informed of and be given the opportunity to respond to all information submitted which might influence a decision, prior to the decision being made;
  • the person should be told the reasons for the decision;
  • the decision-maker should act in a manner which is unbiased, fair and open-minded.

Basic elements of procedural fairness when dealing with student discipline include:

  • Students need to be treated with respect and dignity and to know what is expected of them. The St Alcuin Code of Conduct is clearly explained in the Parent/Student Handbook.
  • In accordance with school policy, a student who is accused of breaching a rule should be notified of that of which he/she is accused, with the essential facts of what he/she is alleged to have done.  [NOTE: In more serious cases, notification is also given to a student’s parents.]
  • An accused student has an opportunity to tell his/her side of the story. The right to be heard is a fundamental element of procedural fairness. The principal or teacher may ask the student to explain her/his actions. More serious matters require more formal investigation.
  • The student and parent should be informed of the appeal or review procedure.
  • There is no retribution for pursuing an appeal or review.

The St Alcuin Code of Conduct is clearly explained in the Parent/Student Handbook, as are the school’s disciplinary policies.  Parents agree to the Code of Conduct when they enrol with the school.  In the event of disciplinary action, parents and students are provided with the essential facts of the misbehaviour and there is opportunity for discussion between parties.

Families are provided with clear reasons for the decision made, and the relevant information that led to that decision.

If students or parents disagree with major discipline decisions or actions of the school, particularly in cases of suspension or expulsion, they should arrange a meeting with the Head to discuss these issues. If their concerns are not resolved, they may request the initiation of a mediation process or appeal hearing. In an appeal, parents can present their objections to an impartial Discipline Committee, appointed by the President of the Board. This appeal request must be made in a formal letter to the Head within ten working days following the official discipline decision. The Discipline Committee’s decision on the appeal is binding on all parties.

In the case of mediation, the discipline disagreement is addressed by an impartial facilitator who assists all parties to work together to develop greater communication and understanding, and work together to meet the collective interests of the school, parent(s) and student.  The mediator is a neutral third party and does not influence the outcome of the process, and there is no guarantee that the disagreement will be resolved.