Girl fails in injunction application to secure appropriate education

High Court judge describes situation of teenage girl with mental health difficulties as ‘gravely deficient’

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley said if the girl’s  school situation was not remedied, her future “will be very difficult. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley said if the girl’s school situation was not remedied, her future “will be very difficult. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Wed, Apr 17, 2013, 23:21

A High Court judge has described the social education of a teenage girl with mental health difficulties as “gravely deficient” due to her being out of school for more than a year.

However, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley ruled that this did not entitle the girl to a mandatory injunction directing the State to provide her with an appropriate educational placement.

The girl’s argument that lack of a school placement was harming her development did not suffice for the order of the type sought, she found.

Following the ruling, Mark De Blacam SC, for the girl, said it was intended to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Challenging behaviour
The girl’s family came to Dublin in 2008. They sought a school place for her and obtained one in 2010. After a year, she was excluded temporarily in December 2011 due to her challenging behaviour, an exclusion which was made permanent from February 2012.

She has been out of school since, but received home tuition from April to June 2012. The home tuition resumed in December 2012 and is continuing on the basis of two hours daily. She is also receiving services from the HSE.

Experts have stated that the girl needs a school place, with the necessary supports, in order to learn how to interact with other children.

In her action against the Minister for Education, Ireland and the Attorney General, the girl is seeking various orders and declarations including that the State is obliged to provide her with an appropriate education placement. Failure to do so breaches her rights under the Constitution, she alleges.

Her lawyers argued that the State had a constitutional obligation to provide her with primary education: that right must be enforceable by way of mandatory injunction or it was meaningless.

In opposing the action, the State argued that it had not been shown its response to her needs was inappropriate and that the court should not compel a school to accept the girl.

Last month, the judge was asked not to deliver her ruling after the court heard a school placement had been secured for her. On Tuesday, the court was informed that the place had fallen through.

The judge gave her ruling yesterday, in which she said it was “absolutely clear” from the evidence of the girl’s father, school reports and a health professional that the girl’s social education was “gravely deficient”. If her school situation was not remedied, her future “will be very difficult”, the judge added.

No bad faith


However,

she ruled it was “not possible” to find the very high standard for a mandatory interlocutory injunction against the State parties had been met in this case. There was no element of bad faith by the State and the girl’s rights had not been “consciously and deliberately disregarded or flouted” .

Preparations for the hearing of the full action were at an advanced stage, she added.