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Morag Hutchinson, Green Bay High School v A

5 June 2015

MEDIA RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION

Morag Hutchinson and the Board of Trustees of Green Bay High School v A

(CA 143/2014)

PRESS SUMMARY

This summary is provided to assist in the understanding of the Court’s judgment. It does not comprise part of the reasons for that judgment. The full judgment with reasons is the only authoritative document. The full text of the judgment and reasons can be found at Judicial Decisions of Public Interest:

http://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/from/decisions/judgments.html

The Court of Appeal has today dismissed an appeal relating to a child (A) with special needs who was a student at Green Bay High School. He was suspended and excluded from the School by the Principal and the Board of Trustees. In the High Court, A applied for judicial review against his suspension and exclusion from the School. Justice Faire quashed those decisions because he considered the School had insufficient information before making the decisions. A was then able to return to the School.

The Principal and the Board of Trustees sought to appeal that decision. The appeal was to be heard on 7 July 2015 and was to consider arguments as to whether the School went through the correct process for suspending and excluding A. An additional issue about whether the School had discriminated against A because of his disabilities was to be raised for the first time on appeal. This issue had not been considered by the High Court. The Attorney-General on behalf of the Ministry of Education, the Human Rights Commission and IHC New Zealand were given permission to intervene to make submissions and assist the Court on that question.

The Court of Appeal (Justice Randerson, Justice Stevens and Justice White) has dismissed the appeal the Principal and Board of Trustees intended to bring. A has since left the School and is being educated outside the mainstream school system. This meant there was no longer a live issue between the School and A for the Court to resolve.

The Court acknowledged the appeal raised issues of public importance concerning alleged discrimination against students with disabilities. However this did not mean the Court should hear the appeal for two main reasons. First, the question of discrimination was not addressed by the High Court and it would be unusual for the Court of Appeal to consider such matters for the first time on appeal, particularly where there had been no factual findings made in the High Court on this issue. Second, the Human Rights Review Tribunal is a specialist body which considers human rights issues such as discrimination. It is presently considering the treatment of students with disabilities in proceedings brought by IHC New Zealand against the Ministry of Education. The Court considered that the Tribunal was an appropriate body to resolve these issues.

Full judgment: CA1432014.pdf

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