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«May 2012 Am I old enough? Common legal issues for young people This booklet covers what you can and can’t do because of your age Am I old enough? ...»

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If you don’t agree with the suspension and want advice about what to do, you can contact your local regional office of the education department – see page 14. If you’re not happy with their response you can contact Ombudsman Victoria – see page 14.

If you’re worried about getting advice or taking action, you can ask for help from your parents, your guardian or someone else you trust.

What does it mean if I am expelled from school?

Expulsion is when the principal excludes you from school permanently.

The principal can expel you for any of the things they can suspend you for (see the previous section). They expel you rather than just suspend you if your behaviour is so serious that suspension isn’t enough.

Expulsion is a last resort and the principal must ensure that the school has looked at what else can be done apart from expulsion.

The school can only immediately expel you if you behave in a way that places another person in severe immediate physical threat.

The school must give you and your parents the chance to explain why you shouldn’t be expelled. Before expelling you, the principal must set up a meeting to discuss with you and your parents the reasons for the expulsion and next steps.

If you’re under 17, the education department’s regional director must help you enrol in another school. If you’re 17 or older, the school will give you options for continuing your education.


Am I old enough? Common legal issues for young people

What if I disagree with my expulsion?

Your parents or guardian can write to the principal within ten school days of getting the expulsion notice to say you want the decision

reviewed. You can appeal the expulsion if you think:

• that the school didn’t follow the expulsion process very well • that the reason the school expelled you was unfair • there were other circumstances that you think the school should take into account. Include your reasons and say whether you want to argue your case in person.

If you are over 16 and don’t live at home, you can write to the principal or regional director yourself.

The principal will send your letter to the Expulsion Review Panel. The panel will include a person from the department’s regional office, a principal from another school and someone from your school council.

They will hold a hearing where you and your parents can explain why you should not be expelled. You can bring a support person as long as they are not being paid to be there.

The panel can either agree with the expulsion or recommend that you return to school.

If you don’t agree with the panel’s decision, your parents or guardian can write to the Deputy Secretary, Office for Government School Education within ten school days of being told their decision – see page 14.

The Deputy Secretary will ask someone to investigate the case. If you still don’t agree with the investigator’s decision you may be able to challenge the expulsion in court. Get legal advice and other support.

See ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 14.

Private (non-government) schools have more freedom to suspend and expel students than government schools. Get a copy of your school’s disciplinary procedures to find out how to challenge a decision. You may be able to challenge your suspension or expulsion in court or through a tribunal.

What is bullying?

Bullying is when someone behaves in a way towards another person or group of people to upset or hurt them or damage their property, reputation or acceptance by others. It is usually repeated behaviour and can be carried out over a number of days but it can go on for weeks, months or years. Bullying can happen anywhere and anyone can be a bully, like a teacher or a student, even a family member or someone you’ve had a close relationship with.

There are different types of bullying:

• direct physical: this means the bully hurts your body, doing things like hitting, pinching or kicking you. It can also mean the bully steals or damages things that belong to you • direct verbal: this means the bully speaks to or about you in a mean and hurtful way, like teasing or calling you names or spreading rumours about you • indirect: this includes things that the bully does to upset, exclude or embarrass you, like leaving you out of a game on purpose, using rude body language, texting, emailing you unwanted messages or using chat rooms to upset you.

Bullying is never okay. In the most severe cases, bullying behaviours can now be treated as a crime in Victoria. If someone is bullying you, you can take action to stop it. Schools and employers must try their best to make you feel safe and stop bullying from happening. For example, School most schools and employers should have policies about bullying.

See also ‘Violence and sexual assault’ (page 37) and ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 14.

Am I old enough?

Common legal issues for young people What is cyber bullying?

Cyber bullying is when someone uses electronic communication devices, such as the internet or a mobile phone, to upset or hurt another person or a group of people on purpose. Cyber bullying is illegal and is just as serious as other types of bullying. Cyber bullying can sometimes be even more damaging than face-to-face bullying because electronic communication is fast and can spread easily.

Cyber bullying can include:

• someone making threats to another person or group of people online or using email, texting or instant messaging • someone tricking another person or group of people about his or her identity online • online stalking (stalking is when someone repeatedly does things that make you feel scared) • spreading personal information or secrets online or using email, SMS or instant messaging • bombarding another person or group of people with offensive messages online or using email, texting or instant messaging.

What can I do if I am being bullied?

Make a list of all the things that have happened and when they happened, who was involved and who may have seen it.

If you’re experiencing cyber bullying, save any messages you receive.

You may be able to block the sender’s messages yourself, or get your internet service provider to help you.

See a doctor if you’re hurt or stressed, and tell the doctor why.

If the bullying is happening at school, talk to a teacher, the welfare co-ordinator or the school principal about what they can do. If it’s happening at work, talk to your manager or to another adult you trust.

Be prepared to name the bully.

Ongoing bullying or harassment may also equal stalking. You may have a right to apply to a court for an intervention order.

Remember: you can take action to stop bullying. Talk to an adult you trust. See also ‘Violence and sexual assault’ (page 37) and ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 14.

The internet, social networking and privacy Many people now use the internet and social networking sites to stay in touch with friends, follow news, and to shop.

It’s very important to keep your electronic communications as private as you can. Think about it. If you own a car you’re not going to park it in the street with the doors unlocked. To stay safe online, you should be just as careful with your personal information, as you would be with your car.

How can I stay safe online?

Don’t put any personal information online that can be used to identify you. Use a screen name rather than your full name, and keep your address, phone number, where you work and your date of birth private.

If you shop online, use a pre-paid gift card or a card that is not linked to your savings account or to a credit account.

Make sure you use strong passwords for your email, social media and online bank accounts (use a combination of letters and numbers that is hard for someone else to guess). Use a different password for each account. Change your passwords regularly and don’t tell anyone else what they are – not even your friends.

How can I keep my social networking private?

It’s hard to keep social networking private. Remember, any information and photos that you put online can be easily shared, without you knowing about it.

Limit who sees your profile and your photos and information. Most School sites are not private to start with, but once you set up an account you can change the settings to limit people you don’t know from seeing your personal information.

Am I old enough?

Common legal issues for young people Don’t just rely on privacy settings. Social networking sites change all the time and what was ‘private’ one day can be made public the next.

See also ‘Mobile phone pictures and the risks of 'sexting'’ on page 39.

The most important rule is: don’t email, post or upload anything that you’re not prepared to share with the world.

Where to get more help and information  Centre for Adolescent Health – for free support and referral call 9345 5890 or visit www.rch.org.au/cah  Department of Education and Early Childhood Development – call 9637 2000 or visit www.education.vic.gov.au Visit www.education.vic.gov.au/healthwellbeing/support/default.htm for information about staff who can support students and their families.

To contact the Deputy Secretary of the Office for Government School Education write to: GPO Box 4379, Melbourne 3001 fax 9637 2180 or email community.stakeholders@edumail.vic.gov.au  Independent Schools Victoria – call 9825 7200 or visit www.ais.vic.edu.au  Kids Helpline – 24-hour telephone and online counselling for children and young people. Call 1800 551 800 (free call) or visit www.kidshelp.com.au  Ombudsman Victoria – can investigate decisions made by government schools and can recommend different action. Call 9613 6222 or 1800 806 314 (country callers) or visit www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au  Youthlaw – call 9611 2412, email info@youthlaw.asn.au or visit www.youthlaw.asn.au  For more information about bullying visit www.bullyingnoway.com.au  For information about how to stay safe online visit www.cybersmart.gov.au

Becoming independent

Being in charge of your own life means you’ll have to think about finding a job and a place to live. You have to vote if you are 18 or over, and you may want to open a bank account. You might also want to make a Will, travel overseas and drive a car. This section tells you about the law and gives you a few tips about how to do some of these things.

Where can I look for work?

Depending on the kind of work you want, you could start with:

• local shopping centres, newsagents and restaurants • job ads in your local and other newspapers • job websites.

Sometimes employers don’t advertise jobs, so it’s worth telling people you know that you’re looking for work. They may be able to help you.

Using other services to find work If you’re looking for a job you may be able to use the self-service facilities in your local Centrelink office. Some offices have touch-screen machines that list jobs. You may also be able to use the phone, fax, photocopier, computers and printers to help you prepare your job application.

Becoming independent If you are getting Youth Allowance payments, Centrelink might put you in touch with Job Services Australia. Job Services Australia is made up of different organisations that can help you find work.

Some of these organisations may also be able to help you find an apprenticeship or traineeship.

Am I old enough? Common legal issues for young people

When am I old enough to work?

The minimum age for most types of employment is 13. If you’re under 15, special restrictions apply to your employment (see the 'Any age' section below).

Under 13 years Generally, an employer can’t hire you to work if you’re younger than

13. However, if you’re 11 or older, an employer can hire you to do jobs like delivering newspapers or advertising material, or making deliveries for a pharmacy.

Under 15 years There are laws employers have to follow about employing young people under the age of 15. The government can fine employers if they don’t follow these laws. One condition is that employers or supervisors of young people under 15 must have police checks. Another condition is that the employer can only give a person under 15 a job during school hours if that person has permission not to go to school.

Any age You can work in a family business or in the entertainment industry at any age. If you work in a family business, your parents must supervise you. They need to make sure you only do light work that will not stop your school work.

Do I need a Child Employment Permit?

If you’re under 15, an employer can only hire you if you have a Child Employment Permit. You get these from Business Victoria. See ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 31. Permits are free.

Your future employer must apply for the permit. Your parent or legal guardian (and sometimes your school) must sign the application form.

The employer must include details about what you’ll be doing as part of the job and your hours of work.

It’s illegal to work without a permit. The government can fine employers between $1000 and $10,000.

If you’re under 15, you don’t need a permit if the work involves you:

• working in your family’s business and being supervised by your parent or guardian • taking part in a project or a show with a church or a school • taking part in a church service or religious program • doing odd jobs for neighbours or friends like babysitting or tutoring • taking part in a sporting activity.

What types of work can I do?

Wherever you work, you’re only allowed to do light work. This means work that won’t hurt you in any way and work that won’t stop you

from going to school. Examples of the type of work children do include:

• golf-caddying • office work, such as photocopying • gardening • delivering newspapers, pamphlets or other advertising material and making deliveries for a registered pharmacist • entertainment • farm work • working as a sales assistant in a shop.

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