CLM Limerick provided advice and advocacy support to a family in relation to their son’s expulsion from school. The parents were referred by a family support service to one of the free legal advice clinics. Their 12 year old son had been involved in an incident on his second day at secondary school and he had been expelled from school as a result. They had appealed the decision to the Department of Education & Skills and a “Section 29” Appeal Hearing had been convened to hear the appeal.
CLM Limericks input
When the parents came to the free legal clinic for advice, the decision to expel their son from school had already been made by the Board of Management. They felt that they hadn’t had a fair hearing by the Board of Management. They felt that their son had made a foolish mistake and that the decision to expel their son was disproportionate to the incident he had been involved in, and that the school were
making an example of their son to set the tone for the other new students to the school.
They had lodged an appeal with the Department of Education & Skills under section 29 of the Education Act 1998, which is the procedure for hearing appeals of decisions by school boards to expel, suspend or refuse to enrol a student in school.
CLM Limerick reviewed the documents which the parents had received, which included the letter of expulsion from the Board and the school’s procedures on expulsions. We prepared a substantial written submission for the parents to submit to the Appeal Hearing Committee which identified the procedural defects in how the school carried out the investigation and expulsion, the lack of fair procedure in the hearing process, the lack of interventions tried by the school before expulsion, and which commented on the impact an expulsion would have on a 12 year old student. The submission identified the factors determined by the National Educational Welfare Board which the Board were obliged to consider before effecting an expulsion and pointed out that these factors had not been considered in this case.
As a result of the submissions made by the parents, the Appeals Committee overturned the decision of the school to expel the student, and he was reinstated in school with appropriate supports. This case highlights the imbalance of power between school boards and parents in serious matters such as a child’s access to education. Without the support of CLM Limerick, the parents would not have been in a position to advocate as strongly for their son and it is likely that the expulsion may have been upheld.