Brian Moss of Worthingtons Solicitors advises on legal options available when a child has been suspended, or expelled from school.
Sometimes, schools and educational authorities make decisions about pupils which have such considerable import that they involve questions of law. Decisions to expel, suspend or to exclude a pupil are of this character.
Whilst a decision by a teacher to punish a pupil with detention, lines, copies of school rules, or putting them on report are all within a school’s inherent powers to discipline pupils, a decision to suspend or expel a pupil from school involves the school exercising powers, not of their own gift, but conferred upon them by the law. Also, children with special educational needs are the subject of additional legal responsibilities on the part of schools and their local Education and Library Board.
If your child is suspended from school, there is no right of appeal of this decision under law, however, your child’s school may provide for an internal right of appeal against a suspension decision, sometimes to the school’s Board of Governors. Usually, there is no provision made for a right to appeal against a suspension decision. The only remedy which you might have to challenge a decision to suspend your child from school, is applying for what is known as a judicial review.
If your child is expelled from school, you will have the right to appeal the decision to an independent Appeal Tribunal, established and maintained by your local Education and Library Board. In certain circumstances, it may be possible to have the decision of the local Education and Library Board judicially reviewed.
Judicial review is a legal procedure whereby a person can request a Judge to review the decision of a public body (such as a school or a local Education and Library Board), if such a decision can be argued to be unlawful, unreasonable or unfair, broadly speaking. If the Judge agrees, the decision in question can be struck down, ordered to be taken again, or in some cases, the Judge will compel the school or the Board to take certain specific action (such as allowing the child back into the school, or ordering that a suspension is removed from the child’s school records).
If you or your child are affected by a School, or Education Board decision - or lack of provision, it may be possible to mount a legal challenge by way of judicial review. Legal Aid funding is regularly available in such cases, since the relevant factors to be assessed are the income and capital of the child.
Very strict time limits apply in this type of case so it is essential that urgent legal advice is sought. Worthingtons frequently provide initial advice free of charge in cases where legal aid is not available.