Friday 22 September 2017

School tells High Court they don't want to take back Junior Cert student expelled for selling cannabis

Tim Healy

A SCHOOL says it should not have to take back a junior certificate student it expelled for selling cannabis, the High Court heard.

The 15-year-old's activities were discovered following a schoolyard fight between two other students over payment for cannabis.  

The father of one of these two students checked his son's Facebook page and found the supplier of the drug was the 15-year-old, who was 14 at the time, and made a complaint to the school.

Following an investigation by the school principal, she was satisfied he had been using and selling cannabis to other students along with another boy who was also expelled.  It was also claimed the 15-year-old took out a thumb-sized piece of cannabis from his sock and showed it to the principal during her investigation.

His parents, who the school claims did not dispute the allegations against him but pleaded for him to be given a second chance, appealed a decision of the school's board of management to expel him.  

The boy has been out of school since the allegations emerged last January but was allowed to sit his Junior Cert there in June.

In their appeal against the expulsion, the parents argued the school was unable to provide definitive proof the boy sold drugs or that he had admitted doing so.

An appeals committee set up last April by the Minister for Education overturned the expulsion and said he must be readmitted but the school refused to do so.

The parents then asked the High Court to order that the reinstatement decision be implemented but the school brought its own proceedings seeking to quash the  appeal's committee's decision.

Mr Justice John Hedigan was told today if the school's case succeeds, the matter would be referred to a new appeals committee.

Fechin McDonagh SC, for the school, argued the committee's recommendation was unlawful because it had based its decision on the fact that there were no notes available of an interview involving the boy, his parents, the principal and vice-principal last January as part of the initial investigation.

Mr McDonagh said while there were no notes of that interview it had been admitted at the interview by the boy that he had been selling cannabis and the parents did not dispute it.

The principal had produced a report for the school board of management, which also met with the parents, before it came to the decision to expel him last March.  He had already been effectively suspended, or asked to stay at home, since January.

Mr McDonagh said the appeals committee's decision could not stand because it had failed to apply a proper standard of proof in making its determination and failed to take into account evidence and facts which had been presented to the school board.

In an affidavit, the boy's mother said the on-going loss of time and educational amenity during a critical period in her son's development, just before the Junior Cert, was particularly distressing.

The hearing resumes on Tuesday.

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