Wednesday 23 October 2019

School wins appeal against order to enrol violent boy (8)

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Aodhan O Faolain and Ray Managh

The High Court has quashed a decision compelling a rural school to re-enrol an eight-year-old boy who was expelled after assaulting five members of staff - striking one with a hurley.

The court heard the boy, who has special needs and is on the autism spectrum, had in the last few years been involved in more than 30 incidents in which teachers, special needs assistants and other students were bitten, assaulted, kicked, punched or head-butted by him.

In his judgment following a late sitting of the High Court, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys ruled that the direction by the Department of Education requiring the school to take back the student was "otherworldly", "fundamentally flawed" and "riddled with irrelevancies".

The judge said the decision-makers also failed to take into account the rights of other students at the school to an education, as well as the school's staff and students' rights to bodily integrity.

In all the circumstances the judge said he was satisfied to quash the decision, and ordered that the matter be remitted back for fresh consideration.

Neither the student nor the school can be identified for legal reasons.

The decision had been challenged by the school's board of management. The board, represented by Feichín McDonagh SC and Joe Jeffers Bl, said the action was being brought in the interests of avoiding serious risk to the safety of other pupils and staff.

Counsel said the boy was involved in 38 incidents over a two-year period including a very serious incident in April last when the boy began chasing another pupil around an empty classroom with a hurley.

A female teacher, who was trying to reason with the boy, had been punched in the chest by him and when he was removed from the room he had started kicking and hitting both the principal and the teacher, who he struck in the leg with the hurley.

The school suspended and then formally expelled the boy. The boy's mother appealed that decision to a three-person Department of Education appeal committee. Last August the committee overturned the school board's expulsion decision. The Department of Education directed the school to re-enrol the boy.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Humphreys said he was satisfied to quash the committee's decision. Based on the evidence put before the court the judge said that "no reasonable person could allow the appeal".

Irish Independent

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