23 May 2022

High Court challenge brought over decision to expel schoolboy for having knife

High Court challenge brought over decision to expel schoolboy for having knife

A High Court challenge has been brought over a decision by a three-person committee set up by the Department of Education to uphold the expulsion of a secondary school student for bringing a knife to school.

In proceedings brought through his mother, the boy claims the decision is flawed on grounds including that a member of the committee was a past pupil of the school he was expelled from.  

The parties cannot be identified for legal reasons. 

The second-year student was expelled from the secondary school he attended, located in the south of the country late last year. 

The teen appealed that decision to the Department of Education which appointed a three-person committee under Section 29 of the 1998 Education Act (known as a "Section29 Committee) to consider the appeal.

The committee upheld the school board's decision.

At the High Court on Monday, Derek Shortall Bl for the teen said his client had been expelled over what was "a very serious matter."  

Counsel said that his client's mother attended the appeal and was assisted by an independent advocate. 

Counsel said it is their case that the teen was not afforded fair procedures at the hearing by the committee. 

The advocate was ruled out of order at the hearing by the committee member when the advocate attempted to raise questions about that member.  

Counsel said there was a "community of interest" between one of the committee members and the school. The committee member was a past pupil of the school, counsel said. 

The advocate says that during the hearing the committee member treated both the teen's mother and the advocate himself with total disrespect, was argumentative, disparaging, disrespectful, offensive and was wholly disinterested in submissions concerning fair procedures. 

The advocate also said he was accused by the committee member during the hearing of failing to have the students interests in mind, of having delayed matters, and was accused of making false statements.

The advocate further claims that at the hearing the committee member also allowed the school to present its case before the teen's mother was finished hers.  

That particular member should never have been part of the committee and should have voluntarily stood down before the hearing commenced in January, counsel said. 

In his action against the secretary general of the Department of Education and Science, and the three-person committee, the teen seeks an order from the High Court quashing the decision to disallow his appeal. 

He also seeks various declarations including that there was reasonable apprehension and suspicion of perceived bias in respect of the committee as one of its members was a past pupil of the school, and that the member should have stood down when asked to do so by the pupil's advocate. 

He further seeks to have his appeal against his expulsion remitted back to the Department for a fresh reconsideration.  

The teen's secondary school is a notice party to the proceedings. 

Permission to bring the challenge was granted, on an ex parte basis, by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan on Monday.

The judge made the matter returnable to a date later this month. 

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