Know Your Rights: Challenging a school’s policies
My son shaved his head on Saturday and was sent home from secondary school on the following Monday. The school is using school policy to justify suspending him for one week until his hair starts to grow. What can I do?
All schools should have policies in place to deal with issues as they arise in the normal day-to-day running of a school (codes of behavior, school rules and other policies). These should be provided or made available to parents of children attending the school. If you are unhappy about a school’s policy or the implementation of a school’s policy you can make a complaint to the school. The school should have a formal complaints procedure that you can follow.
The complaints procedure usually involves contacting the principal with your complaint. (The school’s procedures may ask you to speak to another member of staff before speaking with the principal.) If having spoken with the school principal, you are still not happy that your complaint has been resolved you may contact the chairperson of the school’s management authority.
If the chairperson cannot resolve your complaint they should discuss the matter at a meeting of the management authority. The school’s Board of Management is usually the management authority. However, in the case of Education and Training Board schools you should contact the Education and Training Board responsible for the school.
Shortly after reaching its decision, the management authority will let you know its decision on your complaint. This decision ends the school complaints process. The Department of Education and Skills provides information about making a complaint to a school on their website. If you have followed the school’s complaints procedures and you are not satisfied with the outcome you can escalate your complaint about the school to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office. The key criterion for any intervention by the Ombudsman for Children is that the action complained of has or may have adversely affected the child. The Ombudsman can examine any administrative actions of the school, staff or Board of Management including whether the school’s policies have been followed correctly or if those policies are fair.