School told it must enrol boy (6) it deems "an unacceptable risk" to other students

A school has asked to overturn a direction that compels it to enrol him.

A SCHOOL IS to ask the High Court to overturn a Department of Education direction compelling it to enrol a six-year-old boy who has severe behavioural difficulties.

The Co Meath-based national school’s board of management had refused to enrol the boy who was expelled from his previous school for bad behaviour.

The boy’s parents — the family cannot be identified for legal reasons — wanted to enrol their son in a senior infant class at the new school which refused the enrolment “on health and safety grounds”.

Psychological reports

Today, Mr Justice Donald Binchy heard the Board of Management of the new school had considered psychological and behavioural reports on the boy and refused to take him.

Mr Feichin McDonagh SC, counsel for the Board of Management, said the Board considered that the boy posed an unacceptable health and safety risk to other students as well as staff and school property.

Mr McDonagh said the boy’s parents had appealed the Board’s decision. The appeal had been heard by a three member committee which recommended that the Board enrol the child.

He said that last month a senior official with the Department of Education and Skills had communicated the appeal committee’s recommendation to the boy’s parents and the Board of Management and directed the Board to enrol him.

Challenge to the decision

Mr McDonagh told Judge Binchy that the Board had brought proceedings against the Secretary General of the Department of Education and the three-person committee that recommended his enrolment, challenging their decision.

He said the Board seeks court orders quashing both the committee’s recommendation and the Department’s direction that the boy be enrolled at the school. Counsel said that as part of its action the school wants the appeal re-heard.

Mr McDonagh said it was the school’s case that the committee’s decision was irrational and that it had erred in law. The committee had failed to deal with the substantive issue before it, namely the child’s “very severe behavioural difficulties”.

Judge Binchy, in allowing the school permission to bring its action, also granted the school a stay on the order compelling it to enrol the student.

Permission was granted on an ex-parte basis, where only one side was represented in court. It is expected the case will be heard within a couple of weeks.

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Aodhan O'Faolain and Ray Managh