Students formally expelled over powder-snorting social media post, court told

Leaving Cert pupils got injunctions allowing them attend school for current academic year

‘At a meeting of the school board after the injunctions were granted, the decision to expel the two students was confirmed.’ Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

‘At a meeting of the school board after the injunctions were granted, the decision to expel the two students was confirmed.’ Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

 

Two Leaving Cert students have been formally expelled by their secondary school over videoing and posting on social media a classmate snorting some white powder, which turned out to be sugar, during a class.

The two have appealed that decision to the Department of Education which has appointed an independent three-person committee under Section 29 of the 1998 Education Act, to hear that appeal in January.

Last month, the students, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, got injunctions against the school board of management allowing the students attend school for the current academic year pending full and final determination of their proceedings. They sought the injunctions as part of their High Court actions aimed at quashing the school’s decision to expel them.

Details of the incident were published in an Irish daily newspaper.

The school has appealed the injunction decision to the Court of Appeal.

At the Court of Appeal on Friday, Ms Justice Irvine, noting the section 29 appeal is pending, accepted submissions by Joe Jeffers BL for the school’s board that the appeal of the injunction was urgent.

She also noted submissions by Derek Shortall BL, and Andrew Whelan BL, for the two students that the section 29 appeal outcome may render the injunctions appeal pointless.

Mr Shortall said the court should be conscious of the “very significant costs” involved, especially as the families of the students are not affluent.

In the circumstances, the judge listed the injunction appeal for hearing on March 28th.

The students took High Court proceedings after they were informed, following an investigation, the school had made “a preliminary decision” they should be excluded.

At a meeting of the school board after the injunctions were granted, the decision to expel the two students was confirmed.

The board found the boys had behaved in a manner that posed a serious threat to the good order and discipline of the school.

The students want that decision quashed on grounds including it breached fair procedures, is disproportionate and flawed.

In his earlier decision granting injunctions allowing the students return to school, Mr Justice Barrett said, while he was not deciding on the issues in the full cases, the students had made out a strong case and the balance of justice favoured granting the injunctions.

This was an important school year and they wanted to “get back to school, get down to work, and get the best possible Leaving Certificate results”, he said

It was significant 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 and it was never alleged they had consumed something illegal, he said.

The court also noted the special educational needs of one of the students and the fact they are sitting the Leaving Certificate examinations next summer.

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

In opposing the injunctions, the board of management argued there were no grounds in the students’ claims to give the court jurisdiction to make an order lifting their suspensions. Their actions were premature, the board maintained.

The students’ full judicial review proceedings against the school will return before the High Court at a later date.