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School wins court battle to reject boy with autism

A DUBLIN school was entitled to refuse to enrol a boy in a class for children with autism, the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice Daniel O'Keeffe yesterday upheld a challenge by Lucan Educate Together National School to a Department of Education appeals committee decision allowing an appeal by the child's parents against the school's refusal in late 2007 to enrol him in its outreach class for children with autism.

While it was accepted the class had capacity for the child, the school refused enrolment on grounds he did not meet the criterion for enrolment in light of a psychologist's report stating he had "significant" learning disability and significant developmental delay.

The school's criterion for enrolment included only a "mild" learning disability and the school said the services available to it could not meet the child's needs.

The parents appealed under Section 29 of the Education Act and the appeals committee allowed that appeal and directed the child be enrolled in January 2008. The committee found the child met the "main criteria" for enrolment but the school then took judicial review proceedings.

Yesterday, Mr Justice O'Keeffe found in favour of the school.

While it was not unreasonable for the committee to describe autism as the main criterion for enrolment, and there was no issue that there was capacity in the outreach class for the child, other aspects of the committee's decision were unreasonable and invalid, the judge found.


The committee's conclusion that the child had a mild learning disability was unreasonable, given the facts and evidence in the case, he ruled.

The judge said the report relied on by the committee at the appeal could not be read as establishing the child suffered from a mild learning disability.

The report referred to the child having "adaptive skills" within the "mild range of adaptive functioning" This was a different condition to a learning disability, he said.