Friday 14 December 2018

Leaving Cert students' expulsions over sugar snorting video 'extremely harsh', judge says

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

Tim Healy

A High 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 had been suspended pending a final decision by the board of management at a meeting due to take place on November 23.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, setting a hearing date of the case for two days before that meeting, questioned 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.   

The videos were posted on social media.

The school was made aware of the incident by one of the boy's mothers.

Details of the incident showing the boy snorting a white powder, but 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.

On Thursday, Feichin McDonagh SC, for the school said only a "preliminary view" had been taken by the board that they should be expelled. Counsel added that 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, he said. 

Counsel also said there had also been an engagement with a facilitator, which the board will 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 in his client's case as he has special education needs which have not been met since he was put out of school several weeks ago.

Mr Justice Noonan, after considering counsel's submissions, fixed the hearing date for November 20.

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