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Considering protected characteristics in exclusion policies

When drawing up behaviour, suspension and exclusion policies, you should consider whether any proposed criteria might adversely impact on a student because of their protected characteristic and whether the application of them would be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Those making decisions about discipline and exclusions should be aware of the institution’s obligations under the Equality Act and take care not to make assumptions that may lead to unlawful discrimination.

For example:

Two male students are caught fighting by a female member of staff. One of them is a black student and the other a white student. The female member of staff feels intimidated by the black student as she perceives him to be a threat to her and so she suspends him. The other student is not punished. This is likely to be unlawful race discrimination as both the students had been fighting but only the black student was suspended. 

For example:

A student acquires a physical impairment during his further education course. The student is unable to attend some of his lessons, because the buildings are not accessible, and cannot hand in his assignments on time because he requires longer to complete them due to his disability. The college removes him from his course because of his poor attendance record and for not handing in assignments. This is likely to be unlawful discrimination arising from disability as the reason that he handed his assignments in late is connected to his disability so he is being punished for something arising from his disability.

You will need to consider whether reasonable adjustments should be made for disabled students.

For example:

A student with autism shouts at his tutor and uses inappropriate language. The college would usually consider suspension as a sanction for such behaviour. However, the college takes into account that the tutor had missed a tutorial session and that this had distressed the student who finds it difficult both to cope with unexpected changes to routine and to express himself when he is upset. As a result, the college does not suspend the student but decides to deal with the student in a different way. This is likely to be a reasonable adjustment to make.

Subjecting a student to any detriment

In all your other dealings with students you should ensure that your treatment of them is fair. The denial of an opportunity or choice, or anything which a reasonable student would consider altered their position for the worse could result in unintentional discrimination. The detriment need not be physical, economic or disciplinary for example, but the fact that the student has an unjustified sense of grievance alone would not be enough.

For example:

An atheist is allocated a shared flat in one of the newest accommodation blocks on campus. Her flatmates are all devoutly religious and make her life in the flat very difficult, taunting her about her beliefs. She makes a complaint to the university which is upheld but rather than moving her flatmates, she is moved to an older residential block in a less desirable location. By taking this action, the university has subjected her to a detriment. 

Last updated: 19 Feb 2019

Further information

If you think you might have been treated unfairly and want further advice, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service.

Phone: 0808 800 0082

You can email using the contact form on the EASS website.

Also available through the website are BSL interpretation, web chat services and a contact us form.


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closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays

Alternatively, you can visit our advice and guidance page.