On this page, the term “parents” refers to parent(s) and guardian(s) as used in the Education Act. The term “parents” can also include caregivers or close family members who raise the child.

Inappropriate student behaviour

When inappropriate student behaviour occurs, school staff consider individual circumstances and different options to determine the most appropriate way to respond to each situation and help students learn from their choices.

School staff use a progressive approach to discipline that includes early and ongoing interventions to promote positive student behaviour. In some cases, it may be necessary to suspend or expel a student.

School suspensions

A suspension means a student is removed from school temporarily for up to 20 school days. During this time, the student:

  • cannot attend or take part in regular school activities or events
  • has other opportunities to continue learning to help them stay on track with their education

Only a principal can suspend a student.

Activities that can lead to suspension

Activities that can lead to suspension depend on the grade of the student.

Students in Grades 4 to 12 can be suspended for:

  • uttering a threat to inflict serious bodily harm on another person
  • possessing alcohol, cannabis (unless the student is authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes), or illegal drugs
  • being under the influence of alcohol or cannabis (unless the student is authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes)
  • swearing at a teacher or at any person in a position of authority
  • committing an act of vandalism that causes extensive damage to school property at the student's school or on school premises
  • bullying, including cyberbullying
  • any other activities identified in school board policy

Principals will consider suspension whether the activity took place:

  • at school
  • at a school-related activity, such as a field trip
  • in any other circumstances where the student's behaviour has an impact on the school climate, such as cyberbullying

If a student in junior kindergarten to Grade 3 has engaged in any of the activities listed above, the principal will not consider suspension. The principal must consider what positive behaviour supports the school can provide to the student.

The principal can intervene to:

  • understand the root causes of the behaviour
  • provide counselling and mental health supports (with parental permission)
  • problem solve with students to identify alternative behaviour choices
  • communicate and teach behavioural expectations
  • help students deal with conflict
  • help students learn to how to manage emotions
  • use restorative practices to repair harm to people and relationships (with parental permission)
  • resolve conflict through discussion, helping students understand the harm caused to others because of their behaviour
  • facilitate a family or group conference to discuss the impact of the student behaviour on others in the school
  • coordinate options for the student to restore or improve the school environment either by:
    • directly addressing behavior (in cases of vandalism for example, students can work to undo damage they have caused)
    • having the student improve the school environment more broadly
  • equip children with the social-emotional and communication skills needed to:
    • manage themselves
    • resolve conflict
    • develop healthy behavior

Considerations before suspending a student

The principal must consider the individual circumstances of each student. The principal can also decide on different consequences and supports for different students. For example, two students may be involved in an incident but the principal may only suspend one student – or a principal may suspend one student for five days but suspend another for three days and suggest counselling for both students.

Principals must consider:

  • if the student does not have the ability to control their behaviour or understand the possible consequences of their behaviour
  • if the student's presence in the school does not create an unacceptable risk to the safety of another person
  • the student's history (for example, personal history, such as a recent trauma in the student's life)
  • whether progressive discipline has already been used
  • whether the behaviour is related to harassment because of the student's:
    • race
    • ethnic origin
    • religion
    • disability
    • gender or sexual orientation or any other type of harassment
  • how the suspension will affect the student's education
  • the student's age

Students with special education needs

If a student has special education needs and an individual education plan (IEP), the principal must also consider whether:

  • the behaviour was a manifestation of a disability identified in the student's plan
  • appropriate accommodation has been provided
  • suspension is likely to aggravate or worsen the student's behaviour or conduct

Contacting parents about suspensions

When students are suspended, the principal must make every reasonable effort to let parents know within 24 hours.

Programs for suspended students

Students can be suspended for up to 20 days. Students who are suspended for:

  • one to five school days will receive a homework package from the school
  • six to 10 school days must be offered an academic program that will help them continue learning
  • 11 to 20 school days must be offered a program with an academic component and a non-academic component to promote positive behaviour, such as anger management, substance-abuse counselling or life skills coaching

Summary of programs for suspended students

SuspensionPlanning meetingStudent action plan: academic componentStudent action plan: non-academic componentRe-entry meeting
1–5 school daysNot requiredNot requiredNot requiredNot required
6–10 school daysRequiredRequiredNot requiredRequired
11–20 school daysRequiredRequiredRequiredRequired

Students suspended for more than five days

Students suspended for more than five school days are on a long-term suspension.

If a student is suspended for more than five school days, the principal will hold a planning meeting with school and board staff, the student and parents (wherever possible) to identify the objectives of the student action plan.

The student action plan will be based on:

  • student's needs
  • length of the suspension
  • nature and severity of the behaviour
  • mitigating factors, such as including:
    • whether the student has the ability to control their behaviour
    • whether the student has the ability to understand the foreseeable consequences of their behaviour
    • the student’s presence in the school does not create an unacceptable risk to the safety of any person

The academic part of the program will follow the curriculum and ensure that the suspended student can continue their education.

If students have special education needs and an individual education plan, the school board must provide supports that are consistent with the plan.

Appeal a suspension

Parents can appeal a suspension to the school board.

You must send written notice of the request for an appeal to the superintendent of the school board within 10 school days of the start of the suspension.

The appeal must be heard within 15 school days of the board receiving the notice of appeal, unless you have agreed to an extension with the school board.

Contact the superintendent of the school board if you have questions about the appeal.

If you have concerns about the support provided to your child while they are suspended, ask your school board about their process to submit concerns.

Return to school after suspension

Schools must allow suspended students to return after the suspension, investigation, and expulsion hearing (if relevant) is over.

Students do not have to participate in or complete a school board program to return to school following the term of the suspension.

Students suspended for more than five days

The principal will hold a re-entry meeting with school and school board staff, you and your child.

The purpose of the meeting is to make your child’s transition back to school successful. At this meeting, you may identify extra academic or non-academic supports that your child needs.

If your child has been working with a community agency, the agency may also be invited to the re-entry meeting.

Expulsion from schools

Expelled students are removed from school for an indefinite time. An expulsion does not have a time limit.

Students who are expelled from school must be:

  • provided with opportunities to continue their education
  • offered non-academic supports, such as counselling, to help promote positive behaviour

Students are suspended first while expulsion is being considered.

Students can be expelled from their own school or they can be expelled from all schools in their school board. Students expelled from all schools in their school board cannot go to school or take part in regular school activities or events (such as field trips and school team events).

Activities that can lead to expulsion

If a student in Grade 4 to 12 has engaged in any of the activities listed below, the principal will immediately suspend the student and investigate the incident to determine whether the student should be expelled.

If a student in junior kindergarten to Grade 3 has engaged in any of the activities listed below, the principal will investigate the allegations to determine if the student should be suspended or expelled.

Students can be expelled for:

  • possessing a weapon, including a firearm
  • using a weapon to cause or threaten bodily harm to another person
  • committing physical assault on another person that causes bodily harm requiring treatment by a medical practitioner
  • committing sexual assault
  • trafficking in weapons or illegal drugs
  • committing robbery
  • giving alcohol or cannabis to a minor
  • bullying – if the student was suspended before for bullying and the student's presence in the school creates an unacceptable risk to the safety of another person
  • any activity for which a student can be suspended that is motivated by bias, prejudice or hate
  • any other activities identified in school board policy

Expulsion can happen whether the activity took place:

  • at school
  • at a school-related activity, such as a field trip
  • in any other circumstances where the student's behaviour has a impact on the school climate, such as cyberbullying

Contacting parents about suspension and possible expulsion

When students are suspended pending a possible expulsion, the principal must make every reasonable effort to let you know within 24 hours that your child has been suspended.

Investigation of activities that can lead to expulsion

If a student is involved in an incident that can lead to expulsion, the principal must investigate the incident to determine if the student should be expelled. If the student is in Grade 4 to 12, they will be suspended while the principal completes the investigation.

As part of the investigation, the principal must make every reasonable effort to speak to the student, their parents and anyone else who may have relevant information.

After an investigation, the principal recommends to the school board whether a student should be expelled. Only the school board can make the decision to expel a student.

Considerations before recommending an expulsion

The principal must consider the student’s individual circumstances before deciding whether to recommend a student for expulsion. Each decision on discipline is unique.

Principals must consider:

  • if the student does not have the ability to control their behaviour or understand the possible consequences of their behaviour
  • the student's presence in the school does not create an unacceptable risk to the safety of another person
  • the student's history (for example, personal history such as recent trauma in the student's life)
  • whether progressive discipline has already been used
  • whether the behaviour is related to harassment because of the student's:
    • race
    • ethnic origin
    • religion
    • disability
    • gender or sexual orientation or any other type of harassment
  • how the expulsion will affect the student's ongoing education
  • the student's age

If a student has special education needs and an individual education plan, the principal must also consider whether:

  • the behaviour was a manifestation of a disability identified in the student's plan
  • appropriate accommodation has been provided
  • suspension is likely to aggravate or worsen the student's behaviour or conduct

After investigation and considerations

Principal does not recommend expulsion

If the principal does not recommend expulsion, the principal can either:

  • confirm the suspension and its length
  • confirm the student is still suspended, but shorten the length of the suspension and update the student's record
  • withdraw the suspension and remove it from the student's record

Principal recommends expulsion

If the principal recommends expulsion, the principal must write a report with their findings and recommendation that the student be expelled from their school only or from all schools in the school board. The principal must submit the report to the school board and send parents a copy of the report.

The school board will hold an expulsion hearing. This must happen within 20 school days of the student being suspended.

The school board makes the final decision on if a student is expelled. A committee of school board trustees can act on behalf of the school board to make the decision.

At the expulsion hearing, the student and their parents can explain their opinions about the incident and expulsion.

After the expulsion hearing, the school board will decide either:

  • not to expel the student and one of the following:
    • confirm the suspension and its length
    • confirm the student is still suspended, but shorten the length of the suspension and update the student's record
    • overturn the suspension and remove it from the student's record
  • to expel the student only from their school or from all schools in the school board
  • After a student is expelled, parents will receive a written expulsion notice with information about:
  • how to appeal the decision
  • what happens next

Appeal an expulsion

Parents can appeal an expulsion to the Child and Family Services Review Board within 30 school days of receiving the written expulsion notice.

The notice will include instructions on how you can appeal the decision.

After a student is expelled

If your child is expelled from their school only, the school board will assign them to another school in the board.

If your child is expelled from all schools in the school board, the school board must offer a program for expelled students. Students can apply to return to school after they complete the program.

Programs for students expelled from one school

When students are expelled only from their school and moved to another school of the board, school boards must offer support and resources to the student at that school.

To engage, motivate and encourage positive behaviour in students, these supports could include, for example, culturally relevant individual or family counselling.

Programs for students expelled from all schools in the board

If the parents and expelled student agree to participate in the program for expelled students, they will work with school staff to create a student action plan.

The principal will hold a planning meeting that includes you, your child, school staff and school board staff to identify the objectives of your child’s student action plan.

The student action plan:

  • will identify academic components and supports to promote positive behaviour
  • will be based on:
    • your child's needs
    • nature and severity of the behaviour
    • mitigating factors
  • should be reviewed regularly by the school to find out your child's progress in meeting the plan objectives

Academic component

The academic component of the program ensures that your child can continue their education and follow the Ontario curriculum.

If your child has an individual education plan, the school board must provide supports consistent with the plan.

Non-academic component

The non-academic component of the program will help your child develop long-term positive attitudes and behaviours. It identifies services and supports students might need, including:

  • anger management
  • referral for substance abuse counselling
  • individual or family counselling for secondary school students to help engage, motivate and encourage positive behaviour

Concerns about the program supports

School boards must have a process for parents to follow if they have concerns about the supports provided for their child. Ask your school board about their process.

Apply to return to school after expulsion

Students and parents must apply to return to a school. School boards decide whether the student can return. Students and parents can write to the school board and apply to:

  • return to their original school if they were expelled from one school
  • return to a school at their school board if they were expelled from all schools in a board

If your child does not successfully complete a program for expelled students or meet program objectives through another route, they remain expelled.

Go to a different school board

Students can go to a school at a different school board if they live in that board's area and meet one of the following requirements:

  • the student successfully completes a school board program for expelled students
  • the school board staff who provides the program for expelled students believes that the student has met the program objectives through another route, such as work experience

Students who want to return to school must meet the objectives required to successfully complete the program for expelled students.

Re-entry plan

If the school board allows your child to return, you will meet with the principal, school staff, school board staff and your child to develop a re-entry plan to help your child transition back into school.

The plan should include:

  • strategies to help make your child’s return to school successful
  • academic and non-academic supports to promote positive behaviour your child may need

Suspensions and expulsions during emergency school closure

On April 14, 2020, we passed an amendment to the Education Act. This change will help ensure consistency, equity and fairness in how we treat suspended students if an emergency school closure impacts the review of their case for potential expulsion.

The change recognizes the special circumstances of boards, parents and students during a state of emergency and provides the flexibility needed to carry out necessary suspension procedures once school closures end. This change applies to situations where students were suspended before schools were ordered closed but no decision has been made yet about their expulsion.

During the school closure, a Director of Education – upon the recommendation of a principal – may allow principals and school boards to carry out investigations and expulsion hearings for students, even if more than 20 school days have passed since the start of the suspension.

From the date schools re-open, school boards will also have up to 20 school days to complete required activities to determine whether an expulsion is warranted, including investigations and hearings.

Emergency school closures would have no effect on the length of a suspension. This means that:

  • the 20-day maximum allowable suspension period would still apply
  • students would not have their suspension terms extended

Other investigations affected by emergency school closures

In some cases, there may be students who were suspended for activities that could lead to expulsion. If the principal did not complete the suspension investigation before the school closure period, the Director of Education – upon the recommendation of a principal – can approve to delay the investigation until after the school closure ends.

Delaying the investigation would give the principal time to conduct a full investigation. If approved by the Director of Education, the investigation and expulsion hearing (if the principal recommends expulsion) must be completed within 20 school days after the school closure ends.

Suspension and expulsion data

Data on suspensions and expulsions is available on Ontario’s open data catalogue.

For the summary of data, note that:

  • data includes information for public and Catholic school boards
  • data is as reported by schools through the Ontario School Information System
    • 2019-2020: Final public posting as of June 3, 2022. Note: Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
  • students with special education needs include all students reported as receiving special education programs or services, regardless of whether the student:
    • has gone through an identification, placement and review committee (IPRC)
    • has an individual education plan (IEP)

Summary of suspensions in the 2019–2020 school year

  • 46,990 students or 2.21% of all students attending Ontario schools were suspended.
  • 71,135 total suspensions were issued, accounting for multiple suspensions for individual students.
  • 21,370 suspensions or 45.5% of total suspensions were elementary students (1.46% of all elementary students).
  • 25,620 suspensions or 54.5% of total suspensions were secondary students (3.90% of all secondary students).
  • The suspension rate among boards in 2019–2020 ranged from 0.05% of students to 6.54% of students.

Students with special education needs

  • 21,750 suspensions or 46.29% of suspended students were students with special education needs (5.35% of all students with special education needs).

Summary of expulsions in the 2019–2020 school year

  • 245 students or 0.01% of all students attending Ontario schools were expelled.
  • 30 expulsions or 12% were elementary students (0.00% of all elementary students).
  • 215 expulsions or 88% were secondary students (0.03% of all secondary students).
  • 35 school boards did not expel any students in 2019–2020.
  • Among the boards that expelled students, expulsion rates ranged from 0.00% (less than 10 students) to 0.10% (15 students)

Students with special education needs

  • 100 expulsions or 40.7% of expelled students were students with special education needs (0.02% of all students with special education needs).

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