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High Court quashes decision to expel teenage boy with autism from secondary school

The teen was alleged to have engaged in “unpredictable, aggressive and violent behaviour in the school”.

Image: Shutterstock/maroke

THE HIGH COURT has quashed a decision to expel a teenage boy with autism from the secondary school he had been attending.

Mr Justice Senan Allen ruled today that the decision made in June confirming the teenager’s expulsion should be remitted back for a fresh consideration.

The 16-year old boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was expelled by the School’s board of management in November 2018.

That decision was appealed to the Department of Education which appointed a three-person committee under Section 29 of the 1998 Education Act (known as a Section 29 Committee).

The committee dismissed the appeal and upheld the decision to expel the teen.

It found that the school’s board of management’s decision was “reasonable in the view of the number of assaults and aggressive behaviours perpetrated by the teen towards himself, other students and staff at the school”.

The committee said it was accepted that on occasions the teen “engaged in unpredictable, aggressive and violent behaviour in the school”.

The frequency of such acts and the difficulty in identifying trigger indicators constituted a real concern for the board in ensuring it met its duty of care to the teen and other students in the school, the committee also held.

Through his mother, the teen, represented by Feichin McDonagh SC Brendan Hennessy Bl instructed by solicitor John Rogers, claimed the committee’s decision was flawed.

In judicial review proceedings against the committee and the Minister for Education, the teen asked the court to have the committee’s decision quashed, remitted back and heard by a newly constituted committee.

The opposition was opposed by the State defendants. The secondary school notice party to the proceedings.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Senan Allen said that the committee had found that the school board of management’s decision to permanently exclude the teen was reasonable.

That he said was the wrong test, as the committee should have considered if in its view the expulsion was warranted.

The judge also found that irrelevant matters had been taken into consideration by the committee when it was considering its decision.

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In the circumstances, the judge said the committee’s decision in regard the teen must be quashed and his appeal against the school’s decision to expel him must be heard by a newly constituted section 29 committee.

The court had heard that the teenager, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder aged two, has difficulties with speech and language.

He started secondary school three years ago but had struggled in this school.

His mother claimed the school lacks the necessary resources, such as regular speech and language and occupational therapy input, and skills to deal with his needs.

The matter will be mentioned before the court in October.

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Aodhan O'Faolain & Ray Managh

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