Sunday 18 March 2018

School wins legal right to reject boy who does fit its biased selection process

Galway school wins court appeal over right to reject student

Stock image
Stock image

Ray Managh

A secondary school has succeeded in quashing a decision of the Education Minister compelling it to accept a pupil who does not fit its biased selection process.

The Co Galway school favours children of staff and past pupils or siblings of current pupils in its enrolment procedure.

Earlier this year the school's board of management launched High Court proceedings against Minister Richard Bruton following his direction that the boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, be enrolled when the school re-opens next month.

After the child had initially been refused enrolment, the parents brought an appeal to a departmental committee which agreed the child should be given a place, leading to Mr Bruton ordering the school to enrol the boy. The school board claimed the committee's decision was flawed and significantly interfered with its enrolment policy and launched the High Court bid to quash the direction.

The High Court ruled in favour of the board and the Department of Education took the case to the Court of Appeal.

In its judgment, the Appeal Court, while sympathising with the boy's parents, upheld the High Court decision of Ms Justice úna Ní Raifeartaigh.

The case arose out of the parents' contention they had taken the word of a former principal of the secondary school involved in the case that a particular primary school, to which they then transferred their son, was a feeder outlet whose pupils were offered places at the higher school.

The courts heard the secondary school had an enrolment policy under which, if children do not fall into certain categories, such as siblings of pupils already attending or children of staff and past pupils, selection would be by random lottery.

The child in this case had not fitted into any of these categories and had not been successful in the lottery. There had been almost 300 applications for fewer than 200 places.

The parents had appealed to the departmental committee on the grounds that because they had moved their child to a feeder school they had a reasonable expectation he would be enrolled. The school board had argued there had been no evidence to support a finding the boy had been offered a guarantee of a place by the former principal. It also claimed the former principal did not and could not have guaranteed the child a place and claimed there would be "utter chaos" in the school system if the committee's appeal was successful.

Dismissing the department's appeal, Mr Justice Ryan said it was "with a heavy heart the court had come to its conclusion", and acknowledged the parents' efforts to do their best for their son's education.

He said the Court of Appeal was satisfied that Ms Justice Ní Raifeartaigh had arrived at "a correct and careful conclusion" in the earlier ruling.

Irish Independent

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