- 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 are kept under control by the teachers through the many rules set there. Any miscreants are usually punished by the teachers or the Ministry of Magic, and the form of punishment depends on the severity of the mischief. These punishments can also be used in combination as the ones who hand them out see fit.
Types of discipline
Confiscation of possessions
The caretaker, prefects and teachers can confiscate students' possessions when they are on the list of prohibited objects, or they believe 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 to harm him. 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. The twins recovered theirs against her will when they quit school; Harry's was returned to him upon Umbridge's departure from Hogwarts.
House point deduction
This is one of the most common forms of punishment in Hogwarts. When a student has committed some minor mischief, they usually lose House points. As the House Cup competition is a sign of pride for each house, losing points would set them back from winning that pride. This form of punishment may seem a little unfair as one student may drag the entire house down with him. However, this also shows why this form of discipline is so effective - peer pressure to behave.
All teachers, prefects, and the Head Boy and Girl have the authority to dock house points from students. However, prefects have 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 desire, even prefects.
Strict disciplinarians, such as Professor Minerva McGonagall, have no qualms about deducting points from their own House, if they believe such action is warranted.
This is another common form of punishment of the school. When a student has caused a certain level of mayhem, they are usually given detention. This punishment is the most varied form, as there are many ways for the students to serve it. The length of the detention can also be determined by the teacher providing it.
A popular form of detention is making wrongdoers polish the school's many ornate candelabra.
Detentions are usually held in a teacher's office, but the Detention Chamber is a known room in Hogwarts that is likely to be used. A corridor, the Detention Escape Route, is also another location that is 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. In the same way Horace Slughorn threatened several of his favourite students with detention if they did not complete their homework assignments.
When Dolores Umbridge became a professor, she utilised a very cruel method of punishment for her detentions, which is 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 causes the words to cut into their hands to draw blood as ink. This detention usually starts from 5:00 pm, so the students don't have much time for dinner, and lasts 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. Being a teacher, Umbridge had the privilege to hand out detentions to her students, no matter how unfair it seems, thus Minerva could not circumvent it.
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.
Prefects may also be 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.
Removal of privileges
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.
Parent or guardian notification
- "I've had more owls from Hogwarts about [Fred and George] than the rest put together."
- —Molly Weasley[src]
Some offences, or perhaps repeat offences, warrant sending a letter to the family of the student in addition to other punishments.
In some cases the reply from the family to the student is a Howler (a red envelope that bursts into flames and speaks its message in a highly-magnified voice of the writer), which is embarrassing when it arrives 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.
To be suspended from school is to be removed from there for a certain amount of time. Although this practise is not very usual, some professors, like Severus Snape, frequently suggested for some students to be suspended for reasons that they thought were justified.
To be expelled from Hogwarts is the final and worst punishment given to the students. The rule-breaking they committed is usually severe enough to have injured others. The student is removed permanently from school, and the Ministry of Magic confiscates one's wand and destroys it. From that point on, the youth in question is forbidden from practising magic any further, unless the expulsion occurs after they have passed their O.W.L.S. examination, in which case they will be considered old enough to learn from their mistakes and sufficiently skilled to still function as law abiding citizens and may keep their wands and continue to use magic, although their expulsion from school will still remain as a sign of disgrace on their permanent record, as was the case of Newt Scamander.
There are 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 perform magic outside of school, especially in front of Muggles, they are given one warning letter. A second offence may result in a disciplinary hearing or expulsion. There are exceptions, though: if the situation is 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 has permission to perform magic.
The Ministry does not have the authority to punish students for misdemeanours within school unless it directly transgresses any Educational Decrees, nor may it expel any students and confiscate wands unless charges are successfully proven.
Under the tenure of Professor Dolores Umbridge as High Inquisitor, Educational Decrees 24 and 27 were passed, both of which would lead to students being expelled if they dare start an unauthorised organisation and 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 all the 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 more fair 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.
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 is actually true is uncertain, given his secret loyalty to Albus Dumbledore.
Other forms of discipline
At various times, a number of other types of punishments have been 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.
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."
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 as 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 Stinkpellets 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 Number Twenty-Nine 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.
In charge of discipline
Discipline at Hogwarts is enforced by a variety of people. Depending on their position within the hierarchy, they can hand out different kinds of punishment.
- The Hogwarts caretaker can suggest to teachers, Heads of House, or the Headmaster to put students in detention. He can do so verbally or by using a form. He cannot hand out detention himself or dock house points.
- Prefects can dock house points from all students except other prefects and the Head Boy or Head Girl. According to Hermione Granger, a prefect can also put students in detention.
- The Head Boy and Head Girl have the same powers as prefects, but in addition they can dock points from prefects.
- All Hogwarts teachers can deduct house points from students and can put any student in detention.
- The Heads of House in addition, can 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 Headmaster can use all of the authorised punishments listed above, but can also revoke any punishment handed out. Apparently, any expulsion needs to be confirmed by the Headmaster before the student gets expelled, and if a Headmaster approves of an expulsion, his successor in office have, granted not too much time has passed, the power to revoke the expulsion if he or she believes it to have happened on invalid grounds.
- The Ministry of Magic has no right to punish students for their wrongdoings in school, nor do they have the right to expel students and confiscate wands unless charges have been successfully proven and passed.
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