Thursday 27 June 2019

Students formally expelled from school over 'sugar snorting' video

Stock photo
Stock photo

Aodhan O' Faolain

Two Leaving Certificate students have been formally expelled from the secondary school they attend for videoing and posting on social media a classmate snorting some white powder during a class.

The two have appealed that decision to the Department of Education which has appointed an independent three-person committee under Section 29 of the 1998 Education Act (known as a "Section 29 Committee).

That appeal is due to be heard in January.

Last month the students, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, secured High Court injunctions against the school's board of management allowing the students attend school and continue their education for the present academic year pending the full and final determination of their proceedings.

They sought the injunctions as part of their High Court actions aimed at quashing the school's decision to expel them. 

​Details of the incident, which involved the snorting of sugar by the other pupil, were published in an Irish daily newspaper.

The school has appealed the decision by Mr Justice Max Barrett to grant the injunction to the Court of Appeal.

At the Court of Appeal on Friday Ms Justice Irvine, noting that a section 29 appeal is pending, accepted submissions by Joe Jeffers Bl for the school's board that the appeal of the injunction was urgent.

The Judge also noted submissions by Derek Shortall Bl and Andrew Whelan Bl for the students that the section 29 committee's finding may render the appeal before the court moot.

The committee is due to consider the appeal sometime between January 9th and 21st next, the court heard.

Mr Shortall said that the court should be conscious of the "very significant costs" involved, especially given that the families of the students involved are not affluent.

In the circumstances, the Judge said the appeal against the injunction should be listed for hearing on March 28th next.

The students commenced High Court proceedings after they were informed that following an investigation of the incident the school had made "a preliminary decision" that they should be excluded.

At a meeting of the school's board after the injunction was granted the decision to expel the two students was confirmed. 

The board found the boys had behaved in a manner that posed a serious threat to the good order and discipline of the school.

The students want that decision quashed on grounds including it is in breach of fair procedures, disproportionate and flawed. 

Granting the students the injunction allowing them to return to the school Mr Justice Barrett said while he was not deciding on the issues in the full cases the students had made out a strong case and the balance of justice favoured the granting of the injunctions.

He said in the applications before the court the students, in what is an important school year for them, wanted to "get back to school, get down to work, and get the best possible Leaving Certificate results."

He said it was of significance that the court was "not dealing with students who had taken any illegal substance," but with two schoolboys who "engaged in an unplanned, impromptu occurrence as it unfolded before them."

The video had been shared on a social media platform with a limited number of participants. It was never alleged they had consumed something illegal, he said. 

The court also noted the special educational needs of one of the students, and the fact they are sitting the Leaving Certificate examinations next summer.

The Judge said it was also significant that educational officers at Tusla, were of the view the students would be better back at school.

Even with the injunctions in place, the orderly implementation of the disciplinary process will continue, he said. 

In opposing the injunction application lawyers for the board of management argued that there were no grounds in the student's claims that give the court the jurisdiction to make an order lifting their suspensions.

It also argued that the student's action was premature.

The student's full judicial review proceedings against the school will return before the High Court at a later date.

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