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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 6 June, 2020

Court says students who posted video of classmate snorting sugar must be allowed back to school

The school said they had behaved in a manner that posed a serious threat to the school’s good order.

Image: Shutterstock/schankz

THE HIGH COURT has granted injunctions allowing two Leaving Cert students facing expulsion for videoing and posting on social media a classmate snorting some white powder during a class to return to school.

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

Following an investigation by the school the two teens, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, were informed that the school’s board of management had made “a preliminary decision” that they should be excluded.

The school said they had behaved in a manner that posed a serious threat to the good order and discipline of the school.

The students brought High Court proceedings against the board aimed at quashing that decision which they say is in breach of fair procedures, disproportionate and flawed.

As part of their actions, the student’s sought injunctions allowing them to return to school pending the outcome of their actions, which the school had opposed.

Mr Justice Max Barrett ruled this morning that both students were entitled to injunctions compelling the school to permit the students to attend the school and continue their education for the present academic year pending the full and final determination of their proceedings against the school’s board of management.

Outside of the court, following the ruling, the students and members of their families became emotional and embraced other.

In his decision, Mr Justice Barrett said he was not deciding on the issues in the full cases.

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.”

The students had made out a strong case and the balance of justice favoured the granting of the injunction.

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 said it was also alive to the special educational needs of one of the students, and that both students are due to sit the Leaving Certificate examinations next summer.

He said their performance will “have a significant determinative effect on the future course of their lives”.

The judge said he also considered it as “a matter of significance that educational officers at Tusla, who had become involved with the children following the decision to expel” are of the view the students would be better back at school.

The judge added that the students have acknowledged that the disciplinary process “will continue”.

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

He said the “public interest in a well-ordered schools system where rule yields consequences and compliance by the school with ordained disciplinary processes, will be protected.”

Following his ruling lawyers for the school board expressed its concerns about the court’s decision and the potential implications it had for the disciplinary process.

Feichin McDonagh SC for the board indicated that it would seek an urgent appeal of the decision before the Court of Appeal and sought a stay on the order.

The application for a stay was opposed by Andrew Whelan BL and Derek Shortall BL for the students.

However, Mr Justice Barrett declined to place a stay on his decision and also awarded the students their legal costs of the injunction application against the school’s board.

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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Aodhan O Faolain

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