School fights move to reinstate drug allegation student

A West of Ireland-based secondary school says it should not have to take back a Junior Cert student it excluded for allegedly selling illegal drugs at school, the High Court heard yesterday.

The action arises out of its the school’s decision to suspend and expel a 14-year-old boy who cannot be identified for legal reasons in March of this year.

The boy, who through his mother has brought separate High Court proceedings aimed at compelling the school to readmit him, is due to sit his Junior Cert examinations in June.

Through his parents the boy appealed his exclusion under Section 29 of the 1998 Education Act. That appeal was heard by a committee who ruled, while the boy’s purported involvement with drugs at the school was very serious, his expulsion was not warranted. The three-member committee found the school was unable to provide definitive proof the boy supplied illegal drugs or offered them for sale, or that he admitted to supplying drugs or offering them for sale. It directed arrangements be made for the boy’s return to school.

In early May a senior official with the Department of Education and Skills communicated the appeal committee’s decision to the boys’ parents, the school’s board of management, and the National Education Board.

Barrister Feichin McDonagh SC for the school told the court his client has brought proceedings against the Department of Education and the three-person committee challenging their decision to re-instate the student. Counsel said the school’s decision was irrational and the committee took irrelevant matters into consideration before arriving at its decision. Counsel said the school wants the section 29 appeal reheard.

Mr Justice John Cooke, allowing the school permission to bring its action, also granted the school a stay on the order compelling it to take the pupil back.

The judge agreed to adjourn the matter to later this week, when the action will be heard alongside proceedings brought by the teen.

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