Student suspended over cannabis should not ‘gloat’ on school return
Posted on 1st April 2019 at 21:27
Judge grants injunction to parents and places conditions on boy going back to private Dublin school
A Junior Certificate student suspended from school after his mother expressed concern about him sourcing cannabis online can return to his studies with immediate effect, the High Court has ruled.
Mr Justice Max Barrett, who expressed concern about such matters coming before the courts in the first place, said the boy’s return to the private school in Dublin is subject to conditions including no “gloating”.
If the teenager’s head teacher has serious concerns about his behaviour on return, the school can apply to reactivate the suspension, he said.
He also said the boy is also to have no further involvement in any way with illegal drugs and should not engage “in any gloating about his having been returned to school”.
The judge also asked that the Child and Family Agency prepare a report about the boy’s general welfare/schooling.
The boy had admitted smoking cannabis and having a “stash” of it in off-campus woods behind the school.
He admitted having discussions with fellow pupils about collectively sourcing and/or going to smoke cannabis but strenuously denied bringing it to school or supplying it to other pupils.
The case arose after his mother contacted the school late last year expressing concerns he may be smoking the drug. Later, she said he had admitted sourcing it through Instagram.
A few days later, the school told the parents it was alleged he supplied cannabis to another student. His suspension was ordered in early December.
The boy’s parents subsequently brought a legal challenge against the school after they were dissatisfied with the process under which they had unsuccessfully appealed his suspension.
They also sought an injunction that he be allowed return pending the hearing of their full challenge in a few weeks time.
In his decision on Monday granting the parents the injunction, the judge said the boy should now “knuckle down to work and demonstrate to his parents, his school, his teachers, and the High Court, the respect they each deserve by doing the best that he can in his Junior Certificate examinations”.
The court was “taken aback” by the boy’s behaviour and by his own admission he had broken the law, he said. His actions have also been reported to the gardai.
“He should appreciate – and if there is one thing that can be said about the agonies of the last few months it is that they can only have brought home to him – the seriousness of his misdeeds, and the need to change his ways immediately before he lands himself in greater trouble”, he said.
While suspended, the boy was doing home study supplemented by limited remote assistance from his school but this could only be disruptive of his education in an exam year, he said.
His overall health appeared to be suffering and when he attended court for the injunction hearing “he looked considerably frightened”, the judge said.
Were this a case involving the supply of illegal drugs to others, the court would “unhesitatingly” have refused the injunction.
The court was presented with quite a dilemma as to how to do right by him while not doing wrong to his fellow pupils.
“However, the court does not wish to be unduly harsh: children err; that is the nature of childhood; and when they do a level of understanding falls to be shown to them that would not necessarily be extended to adults”.
The judge also expressed concern this was the second application to come before the court in the last four months arising from a school disciplinary process. He would be troubled if there was “an increasing trend in this direction”.
What to do with a schoolboy who lands himself in trouble should, in the first instance be the preserve of educators and experts in child and adolescent behaviour “not judges trained by law”. Disciplinary matters are primarily for schools and appeals/mediation processes of the Department of Education.
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