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Hagrid: "Yeh've done wrong and now yeh've got ter pay for it."
Malfoy: "But this is servant's stuff, it's not for students to do. I thought we'd be copying lines or something. If my father knew I was doing this, he'd--"
Hagrid: "--tell yer that's how it's done at Hogwarts. Copyin' lines! What good's that ter anyone?"
Hagrid to Malfoy on Hogwarts discipline[src]

In Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the many underage wizards and witches were kept under control by the teachers through the many rules set there. Any miscreants were usually punished by the teachers or the Ministry of Magic, and the form of punishment depended on the severity of the mischief. These punishments could also be used in combination as the ones who handed them out saw fit.

During the 1995–1996 school year, when Educational Decree 25 was activated, Dolores Umbridge had the right to override the punishments given by other teachers, and alter them to her own wishes.[1]

Types of discipline

Confiscation of possessions

"Hold it!... Fanged Frisbees are banned, hand it over."
Hermione Granger to a passing fourth year[src]

The caretaker, prefects and teachers could confiscate students' possessions when they were on the list of prohibited objects, or they believed they may be dangerous. In at least one instance this was done as a punishment.

In Harry's third year, Minerva McGonagall confiscated his Firebolt, because she believed that Sirius Black sent it with a jinx or hex to harm him.[2] She returned it to him intact after stripping it down to search for any jinxes or hexes.

In Harry's fifth year, Dolores Umbridge confiscated brooms as punishment from Harry, Fred Weasley and George Weasley after they attacked (or attempted to attack) Draco Malfoy.[1] The twins recovered theirs against her will when they quit school;[3] Harry's was returned to him upon Umbridge's departure from Hogwarts.

House point deduction

Great hall hourglasses

The four hourglasses represent the house points that an authority figure may deduct

"While you are at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn your house points, while any rule-breaking will lose house points."
Minerva McGonagall[src]

This was one of the most common forms of punishment in Hogwarts. When a student had committed some minor mischief, they would usually lose House points. As the House Cup competition was a sign of pride for each house, losing points would set them back from winning that pride. This form of punishment could seem a little unfair, as one student could drag the entire house down with him/her. However, this also showed why this form of discipline was so effective - peer pressure to behave.

All teachers, prefects, and the Head Boy and Girl had the authority to dock house points from students. However, prefects had no authority to dock points from other prefects. During the reign of the Inquisitorial Squad, the members were given special permission to dock points from anyone they desired, even prefects.

Strict disciplinarians, such as Professor Minerva McGonagall, had no qualms about deducting points from their own House, if they believed such action was warranted. 

Detention

"Could you possibly think of a better way of spending detention than helping me answer my fan mail?"
Gilderoy Lockhart to Harry Potter[src]
Detention dolores

Harry forced to scar his own hand by Umbridge as detention

This was another common form of punishment at the school. When a student caused a certain level of mayhem, they were usually given detention. This punishment was the most varied form, as there were many ways for the students to serve it. The length of the detention could also be determined by the teacher providing it. Some detentions could overlap with student events, such as Quidditch and Hogsmeade weekend trips, in which the punishment would take priority, forcing the student to forgo said events.

Such examples could include doing something dangerous (such as entering the Forbidden Forest to help Rubeus Hagrid) or doing physical labour and other tasks without magic. Hagrid believed that simply writing lines was not enough to engrave the lesson onto the offending student.

A popular form of detention was making wrongdoers polish the school's many ornate candelabra.[4]

Detentions were usually held in a teacher's office, but the Detention Chamber was a known room in Hogwarts that was likely to be used. A corridor, the Detention Escape Route, was also another location that was likely used for students fleeing their punishments. The Marauders may have used it, as it was seen on their Marauder's Map.

Severus Snape placed Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle in detention during their sixth year because they failed to do acceptable work the second time around after failing Defence Against the Dark Arts O.W.L.s.[5] In the same way Horace Slughorn threatened several of his favourite students with detention if they did not complete their homework assignments; Draco Malfoy was given such a punishment by Minerva McGonagall after he failed to hand in his Transfiguration homework twice, which took place on a Saturday, thus depriving him of a chance to visit Hogsmeade (though this actually served to cover up his botched attempt to murder Dumbledore, as Minerva stood up for him based on the detention).

When Dolores Umbridge became a professor, she utilised a very cruel method of punishment for her detentions, which was more akin to actual torture. She forced students to spend hours a day for a week at her office, using a Black Quill to write lines, which caused the words to cut into their hands to draw blood as ink; in time, the student's hand would be scarred with the sentence on the back of their hand. This detention usually started from 5:00 pm, so the students didn't have much time for dinner, and lasted until over midnight, leaving a lack of time for sleep and homework. Professor McGonagall considered this a "medieval method" and tried, unsuccessfully, to argue against Umbridge for utilising it.[6] Being a teacher, Umbridge had the privilege to hand out detentions to her students, no matter how unfair they were, thus Minerva could not circumvent it.[3]

As Umbridge was restrained by the laws of the wizarding world (though the actual legality of her actions at the time is unclear), her punishments paled in comparison to those of the Carrows during Lord Voldemort's reign. This included torture and physical punishment, such as the use of the Cruciatus Curse on students, or shackling them to the dungeons.

Prefects may also have been able to place fellow students in detention. Ron once threatened Seamus Finnigan with this punishment when he questioned Harry's sanity, and the twins Fred and George Weasley once suggested that Hermione might do this to them.

When Harry unintentionally injured Draco with the Sectumsempra curse, Professor Snape gave him detention for every Saturday morning until the end of term. Professor McGonagall considered detentions of even such magnitude to be a very lenient punishment for such a heinous act (despite Harry's lack of knowledge of the curse's effects beforehand) as Harry could have easily been expelled for bringing harm to another student.

Removal of privileges

"I contacted the Minister at once, and he quite agreed with me that the High Inquisitor has to have the power to strip pupils of privileges, or she - that is to say, I - would have less authority than common teachers!"
—Dolores Umbridge[src]
Teachers could sometimes suspend or remove certain privileges of students, such as Quidditch and visits to Hogsmeade.

In Harry's second year, Snape suggested suspending Harry from Quidditch during the opening of the Chamber of Secrets, but Professor McGonagall rejected that. Three years later, Professor McGonagall threatened Angelina Johnson with the loss of her position as Captain of the team if she shouted loudly again in the Great Hall. Later that year, when Harry and George Weasley attacked Draco Malfoy for insulting their families, Umbridge stripped them of their privilege to play Quidditch and confiscated their broomsticks. Fred Weasley also lost his permission because he would have attacked Malfoy too, if Angelina Johnson, Katie Bell, and Alicia Spinnet had not restrained him. Although Fred and George retrieved their brooms and escaped Hogwarts, Harry was given his privilege and Firebolt back when Umbridge was sacked.

In his third year, Neville Longbottom lost his privilege to go to Hogsmeade when his list of Gryffindor Tower's passwords was stolen by Crookshanks, which allowed Sirius Black to enter the third year boys' dormitory. Harry also lost his privilege by Umbridge two years later after his interview with Rita Skeeter about Lord Voldemort's return. Both of them regained their privileges at the end of their respective years.

In her sixth year, Ginny Weasley lost her privilege to go to Hogsmeade after reforming Dumbledore's Army.

When Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy were found using the "true" Time-Turner illegally in an attempt to prevent Cedric Diggory's death, which led to disastrous alterations that they managed to fix, Headmistress McGonagall punished the two boys by removing their rights to visit Hogsmeade for the rest of their education at school, along with their Christmas and Easter holidays. They were also given detentions for the remainder of the school year. It is also noted that Professor McGonagall considered expelling the culprits, but decided it would be safer for them to stay.

Parent or guardian notification

"I've had more owls from Hogwarts about [Fred and George] than the rest put together."
—Molly Weasley[src]
Serious offences, or perhaps repeat offences, warranted sending a letter to the family of the student in addition to other punishments.

In some cases the reply from the family was a Howler (a red envelope that would burst into flames and spoke its message in a highly-magnified voice of the writer) sent to the offending student, which was especially embarrassing if it arrived in front of other students.

In Harry's and Ron's second year, the Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, wrote to both their families regarding them operating a flying car that was seen by Muggles, in violation of The International Statute of Secrecy. While Harry saw this as nothing, since his legal guardians would only be disappointed that he was not killed by the incident, Ron's mother sent him a Howler.

In Neville's third year, his Head of House, Professor McGonagall, wrote to his grandmother after Sirius Black gained admittance to Gryffindor tower by getting the list of passwords Neville had written on parchment. Neville's grandmother sent him a Howler.

Suspension

"...he should be suspended, at the very least, for leading his friends into such danger."
—Severus Snape, about the Encounter at the Shrieking Shack[src]
To be suspended from school was to be removed from there for a certain amount of time. Although this practice was not very usual, some professors, like Severus Snape, frequently suggested for some students to be suspended for reasons that they thought were justified.

Expulsion

"Be warned, Potter — any more nighttime wanderings and I will personally make sure you are expelled."
—One of Severus Snape's many threats to Harry Potter[src]
Order Of The Phoenix Howler

Harry receiving a letter claiming that he is expelled, before it was retracted

Expulsion from Hogwarts was the final and worst punishment given to a student. The rule-breaking they committed was usually severe enough to have injured others. The student would be removed permanently from school, and the Ministry of Magic would confiscate one's wand and destroys it. From that point on, the youth in question would be forbidden from practising any more magic. Exceptions to this were made in cases where the expulsion occurred after they had taken their O.W.L. examinations and there was no apparent malicious intent involved in the misdeed, in which case the offender could be deemed old enough to learn from their mistakes and sufficiently skilled to still function as law abiding citizen, as was the case with Newt Scamander when he accidentally "endangered another human life with a beast", and was permitted to keep his wand and allowed to continue to use magic, although this luxury was not given to everyone, as another student that was later expelled, Jacob, was eligible to have his wand snapped in two despite being of age at the time of his expulsion after "admitting" to Ministry officials that he was guilty of pressuring his classmate into reckless experimenting with a dangerous Potion that ended up killing him when the brewing process went horribly wrong and it exploded.

There were other reasons for expulsion. Under the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy and Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, for underage wizards and witches, if they performed magic outside of school, especially in front of Muggles, they were given one warning letter. A second offence may result in a disciplinary hearing or expulsion. There were exceptions, though: if the situation was serious enough to threaten the student in question or anyone within the vicinity, or if granted permission by a high-authority figure, he or she had permission to perform magic.

The Ministry did not have the authority to punish students for misdemeanours within school unless it directly transgressed any Educational Decrees, nor could it expel any students and confiscate wands unless charges were successfully proven.

Under the tenure of Professor Dolores Umbridge as High Inquisitor, Educational Decrees 24 and 27 were passed, which would lead to students being expelled if they dared start an unauthorised organisation or carry The Quibbler inside school, respectively.

Rubeus Hagrid was expelled, in his third year, for a crime that he did not commit (he was framed by Tom Riddle). Over fifty years later, his name was cleared by Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, who uncovered the whole truth about the Chamber of Secrets.

Harry Potter was many times close to being expelled, mainly by Professors Severus Snape and Dolores Umbridge. However, thanks to quick thinking and help from fairer teachers, he was saved from these situations. Once, when Harry produced a Patronus out of school, to save his life and that of his cousin, Dudley Dursley, from a pair of Dementors sent by Umbridge, Harry received an expulsion notice for performing underage magic, and in front of a Muggle, stating that his wand would be confiscated and destroyed. However, this expulsion was later retracted and changed to a disciplinary hearing, at which Harry was found not guilty. When he critically injured Draco Malfoy with the Sectumsempra curse, it was actually enough to have him expelled, as Professor Minerva McGonagall stated Harry was lucky not to have been, due to Snape giving lenience to prevent others from finding out that he was the one who invented the curse.[7]

Severus Snape once claimed to Bellatrix Lestrange that he had done his utmost to have Harry thrown out of Hogwarts, "where [Snape] believe[d] he scarcely belong[ed]", though to what degree this was actually true is uncertain, given his secret loyalty to Albus Dumbledore.[8]

Draco Malfoy once risked his own expulsion when he made a botched attempt at killing Dumbledore, in which he inflicted a dangerous injury to Katie Bell instead. Snape warned him he was already suspected of the tragedy, and only lack of evidence saved him from being expelled.[5] Later however, Dumbledore confirmed that he allowed Draco to remain at Hogwarts to keep him safe from Lord Voldemort's wrath, despite knowing he nearly killed Katie and Ron Weasley; only because both survived with no long term damage.[9]

Other forms of discipline

At various times, a number of other types of punishments, often immoral, were employed at Hogwarts. Argus Filch stated that it was "a pity they let the old punishments die out," such as hanging students from their thumbs and or wrists for a few days.

Transfiguration

Bartemius Crouch Jr, impersonating Alastor Moody, once transfigured Draco Malfoy into a ferret, though the transfiguration was quickly undone by Minerva McGonagall, who warned him that "We never use transfiguration as a punishment."[10]

Physical pain

"Approval for Whipping... Approval for Whipping... I can do it at last... they've had it coming to them for years..."
—Argus Filch, overjoyed at the idea of being allowed to whip Fred and George Weasley[src]
By the time Harry had arrived at Hogwarts, when Albus Dumbledore was headmaster, inflicting pain on students was not authorised. Upon seeing Dolores Umbridge shake Marietta Edgecombe very hard, he was visibly angry and magically forced Umbridge to release her saying, "I cannot allow you to manhandle my students, Dolores." Immediately thereafter, Fudge threatened him with arrest, forcing him to depart his office (and likely the school) temporarily.

In his first year, after he had made unauthorised use of a broomstick to retrieve Neville's Remembrall, Harry feared that Professor McGonagall would use a cane to discipline him, due to his confusion about the surname of Gryffindor Quidditch captain, Oliver Wood. Caning students on the palm of the hands or bottom was permitted in Muggle private schools until 1996, although as a free, state funded school, it likely became illegal under Muggle law at Hogwarts in 1986. It is unclear whether the cane was ever used at Hogwarts, although in wizarding family life similar forms of discipline were used, as Ron recalls Mrs Weasley "walloping" his brother with her broomstick as punishment.

Previously, some of Umbridge's detentions had students write lines with a blood quill that cut the back of their own hand and used their blood as ink. Upon discovering Harry was being subjected to this, Ron said, "Go to McGonagall, say something!" but Harry did not. Lee Jordan also experienced the blood quill. It is unknown if this punishment was brought to the attention of a Head of House or the Headmaster.

In 1996, despite being a Ministry-appointed Headmistress, Umbridge might still have not been authorised to inflict pain as a punishment, perhaps due to rules set down by the Hogwarts Board of Governors, which could only be overridden by the Ministry's educational decrees. Filch said to Harry, "You filthy little beasts would never have dropped Stink Pellets if you'd known I had it in my power to whip you raw,...if I could've strung you up by the ankles in my office, would they? But when Educational Decree Number Twenty-Nine comes in,... I'll be allowed to do them things...."

Soon thereafter, Filch was seen entering Umbridge's office to get forms to allow him to administer whipping as a punishment. Argus Filch attempted to administer this punishment on Fred and George Weasley, but they flew away before he could do so. He later prowled the corridors of the school with his whip in hand, but there were so many miscreants that he did not know which way to turn, so it is uncertain if he was able to ever administer this punishment. Educational Decree 29 would have possibly allowed even more gruesome punishments, but it was never actually passed. Upon Umbridge's removal and Dumbledore's return, these punishments or threats of punishments ceased.

During the Death Eaters' takeover of the school in the 1997-1998 school year, the Cruciatus Curse was used on students placed in detention and other severe forms of punishment were used, mainly by Amycus and Alecto Carrow, who were placed in charge of all discipline; their cruelty made Umbridge look tame.

Disciplinary Authority

Discipline at Hogwarts was enforced by a variety of people. Depending on their position within the hierarchy, they could hand out different kinds of punishment.

  • Prefects could dock house points from all students except other prefects and the Head Boy or Head Girl. According to Hermione Granger, a prefect could also put students in detention.
  • The Head Boy and Head Girl had the same powers as prefects, but in addition they could dock points from prefects.
  • Non-teaching members of the faculty, such as the Caretaker, the Librarian and the Matron, had the power to give and dock house points, and could suggest to teachers, Heads of House, or the Headmaster to put students in detention, be it verbally or by using a form. Though they could not hand out detention themselves like a teacher could, they could be charged with overseeing a detention. As a part of the school faculty, they presumably outranked the Head Boy/Girl and the prefects.
  • All Hogwarts teachers could deduct house points from students, and could put any student in detention.
  • The Heads of House in addition, could suspend students of their house, or propose they be expelled.
  • Dolores Umbridge, the first and only High Inquisitor, had the full authority to invoke or alter any punishment, and once she became Headmistress, gained the full privileges and authority of that rank.
  • The Inquisitorial Squad, formed by Dolores Umbridge, had the right to hand out punishments to any other students, even prefects.
  • The Headmaster could use all of the authorised punishments listed above, but could also revoke any punishment handed out. Apparently, any expulsion needed to be confirmed by the Headmaster before the student got expelled, and the headmaster also had the power to revoke the expulsion after the fact if he or she had reason to believe there were mitigating circumstances previously unknown to them, or that there otherwise were not grounds for an expulsion/that they made a bad decision.
  • The Ministry of Magic had no right to punish students for their wrongdoings in school, nor did they have the right to expel students and confiscate wands unless charges had been successfully proven and passed.

Behind the scenes

  • Two of the three Hogwarts students known to have been expelled were expelled for similar reasons. Newton Scamander for endangering a human life with a beast and Rubeus Hagrid for opening the Chamber of Secrets and killing a human with a beast. Both were blamed for the actions of others.
  • Though not confirmed, it can be assumed any or all employee at Hogwarts is expected to "lead by example" and discipline students if they step out of line in their presence.

Appearances

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 19 (The Lion and the Serpent)
  2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter 11 (The Firebolt)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 29 (Careers Advice)
  4. Wonderbook: Book of Spells
  5. 5.0 5.1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 15 (The Unbreakable Vow)
  6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 13 (Detention with Dolores)
  7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 24 (Sectumsempra)
  8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 2 (Spinner's End)
  9. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 27 (The Lightning-Struck Tower)
  10. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 13 (Mad-Eye Moody)
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