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No injunction for teenage girl looking for school place

A JUDGE has described the social education a teenage girl with mental health difficulties as gravely deficient due to her being out of school for more than a year.

However, the High Court's Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley ruled the teen was not entitled to a mandatory injunction directing the State to provide her with an appropriate educational placement. 

The girl's argument that the lack of a school placement was harming her development did not suffice for the order of the type sought, the Judge held.

Following the ruling, the girl's counsel, Mark De Blacam, said his client's father intends to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

The girl who lives with her brother and father her family came to Dublin in 2008. They sought and obtained a school place for her and obtained one in 2010. After a year in that school, she was excluded temporarily in December 2011 due to her challenging behaviour. That exclusion was made permanent from February 2012.

She has been out of school since but received home tuition from April to June 2012.  The home tuition did not resume again until December 2012 and is continuing on the basis of two hours daily. She is also receiving services from the HSE.

Experts have stated in reports that the girl needs a school place, with the necessary supports, because she needs to learn how to interact with other children.

In her action against The Minister for Education, Ireland and the Attorney General is seeking various orders including one compelling the state parties to provide her with appropriate education placement. The failure to provide a school placement breaches both her educational and Constitutional rights, she further alleges.

In seeking the injunction the girl's lawyers argued the State has a constitutional obligation to provide her with primary education. That right must be enforceable by way of mandatory injunction otherwise that right was meaningless, it was submitted.

The State opposed the application arguing it had not been shown that its response to the teen's needs was inappropriate and that the court should not compel a school to accept the girl.  

In her ruling, the Judge said that was "absolutely clear" from the evidence of the girl's father, school reports and a health professional that the teen's social education was "gravely deficient". If her school situation is not remedied the teen's future "will be very difficult in the extreme," the Judge added.

Home tuition, even with the best tutors, is not designed to replace the form of social education gained by learning how to get along with other people. Home tuition was only ever meant to be a stop-gap measure.

However, she said, it was "not possible" for her to find that the very high standard for an injunction against the State parties had been met.

The Judge added that the full action over the matter was at an advanced stage and there was no reason why the case could not be heard soon. 

Online Editors