Saturday 21 September 2019

Expelling boys over 'snorting sugar' video was 'extremely harsh' - judge

Stock photo
Stock photo

Tim Healy

A High Court judge has described as "extremely harsh" a decision to stop two Leaving Cert students from attending school over their involvement in a video in which another was seen "snorting sugar".

A court hearing will take place next week into the purported expulsion from school of two students who posted videos on social media of another pupil "snorting sugar" during class.

The secondary school, which cannot be named, has claimed the students were not expelled but suspended pending a final decision by the board of management at a meeting due to take place on November 23.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, who yesterday set a hearing date three days before the meeting, queried why the matter had not gone to mediation.

He also said while the school "may or may not be within its rights" to expel the students, it seemed "extremely harsh" to put them out of school "in their Leaving Cert year".

The incident occurred during the course of a lesson unknown to the teacher who was present and the videos were posted on social media.

One of the boy's mothers had alerted the school.

Details of the incident showing the boy snorting a white powder, which was sugar, were published in an Irish daily newspaper.

Earlier this week, the students launched challenges against the school's board of management arising out of their purported expulsions.

Feichin McDonagh SC, for the school, said only a "preliminary view" had been taken by the board that they should be expelled. Counsel added the school had followed the practices as set down under the Education Act.

Seeking time to respond to the students' actions, counsel said the proceedings were premature as a decision will not be finalised until the meeting.

If the board opted not to expel them, that would make the action moot or pointless.

Counsel also said there had also been an engagement with a facilitator, which the board would consider.

Lawyers for the students urged the court to list the case for hearing as soon as possible.

Derek Shortall BL, for one of them, said his client was challenging his suspension as well as the decision to expel him.

The process had been "poisoned from the outset" given it was another student had induced his client to video him, he said.

The school had got his client to sign a confession after telling him he would not be in trouble.

Andrew Whelan BL, for the second student, said there was additional urgency as his client had special education needs which had not been met since he had been put out of school several weeks ago.

Irish Independent

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