Court rules against State's refusal to provide school transport for boy with autism

ireland
Court Rules Against State's Refusal To Provide School Transport For Boy With Autism
The High Court has quashed the State's refusal to provide school transport to a schoolboy with special needs
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Aodhan O'Faolain

 

The High Court has quashed the State's refusal to provide school transport to a schoolboy with special needs.

In her judgement Ms Justice Niamh Hyland said she was satisfied to quash the refusal and send it back to the School Transport Appeals Board, whose refusal had prompted the action, for a fresh consideration.

The judge said the reasons given by the board, after it decided to dismiss an appeal against a nearlier decision by the Dept of Education not to provide school transport for the boy, were inadequate.

The challenge had been brought on behalf of a child, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, who lives in a rural area with his family and has been diagnosed as having autism.

The court heard that following a consultation with various healthcare and educational professionals last year, it was determined that the boy should attend a primary school, which was not the nearest national school to where his family lives.

Nearest school

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The school where it was determined that the boy should attend, the court heard, was found to be the most suitable to cater for his individual needs.

An application for the boy to be provided with school transport to that school was made to the Minister for Education. It was refused because the school was not the nearest school to the boy's home.

That decision was appealed to an independent body, established by the department of Education, called the School Transport Appeals Board.

However, in a decision made last year the appeal was dismissed,

As a result, the boy brought judicial review proceedings against the National Council for Special Education, the Minister for Education and Skills and the School Transport Appeals Board.

No reasons for the decision were given by the appeal board, his lawyers argued.

Reasons for decision

In her judgment Ms Justice Hyland said that the appeal board's decision was unsatisfactory. The appeal body she said had a duty to set out its reasons for its decision.

Decisions made by the board the judge said are "set at nought" if it just announces them without adequately explaining why they have arrived at their decisions.

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The judge also held that the lack of adequate reasons undermined the perception that the board is independent from the Dept. of Education.

The judge said that the boy's family had withdrawn earlier judicial proceedings and had put their full confidence in the appeals process, and were therefore entitled to have the benfiti of a full appeal process.

In all the circumstances the judge quashed the refusal and remitted it back to the board for fresh consideration.

The judge also ruled the respondents should pay boy and his family's legal costs

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