24 Feb 2014

Judge quashes boy's exclusion

9:40 pm on 24 February 2014

The High Court has quashed an Auckland secondary school's decision to suspend and exclude a student who has Asperger's syndrome and dyslexia.

The 14-year-old sought a judicial review after being excluded from Green Bay High School in July last year after a tussle with a teacher over a skateboard.

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Photo: PHOTO NZ

The decision handed down on Monday reveals that the boy had less support at the school than at his previous school, an intermediate, and his mother had expressed concern about this.

The boy was excluded after he walked out in the middle of a lesson and started skateboarding outside, then refused to hand over the skateboard, swore at his teacher and struggled with him over it.

The teacher followed the boy to the school's student centre, where the boy closed the door on the teacher's arm, striking his head.

The principal suspended the boy that day and six days later the school's board excluded him.

In the decision delivered at the High Court in Auckland on Monday, Justice Faire said the case was special and that the teenager has significant disability.

The judge said Green Bay High School did not conduct sufficient investigation or consider all the facts involved before suspending and excluding the boy. He said special support for the boy was reduced before the incident with the teacher over the skateboard.

The lawyer who represented the boy, Simon Judd, said the school did not follow its own process for dealing with him.

In a brief statement on Monday, Green Bay High School said it has received Justice Faire's decision and was disappointed in the outcome. The school said it would comment further on Tuesday.

Not an isolated incident - IHC

IHC director of advocacy Trish Grant said outside court that this is not an isolated incident and some schools are excluding students instead of helping them.

"There is a worrying trend that many schools resort to disciplinary processes in the absence of putting in the good support as early as possible.

"In this case this young man arrived at his school, it was clear from the outset there was a lack of the support that could have made a difference."

Ms Grant said the case is a powerful reminder to schools.

Joanna Maskell, a solicitor for community law service Youth Law, said children with special needs would benefit from the decision.

"There is comments in the judgement about how a student with a disability needs to have consideration around how that disability has contributed to the particular behaviour that the school are making disciplinary decisions about."

Ms Maskell said the decision meant the boy could return to Green Bay High School if he wanted to.