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SJC Parents Lose Case -CJ Says School Board Did Not Breach Contract

A 26-page ruling from Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett Friday morning brought to an end – at least for now – a fight that has been brewing for two months between the Anglican Central Education Authority (ACEA) and parents of 26 students of St. Johns College’s 2013 graduating class.

But the lengthy fight did not end how those parents and students would have liked.

Sir Michael ruled, “In all the circumstances, I must reject the claims of the plaintiffs in this action.”

The chief justice noted that “in this case, we are dealing with the relationship between a school and its students and parents,” adding “that this relationship is inherently contractual.”

However, Sir Michael said he does not accept the argument when it comes to that part of the relationship regarding graduation and noted that it is no longer contractual and enforceable.

In that vein, the chief justice ruled that the ACEA’s decision to exclude all students was not in breach of contract.

In fact, he said he does not find that the approach of the school board was so unreasonable that no school authority could have made that decision.

Sir Michael further determined that it was within the province of the defendant to look at the class collectively and that the behaviour complained of could be attributed to the entire class as in many cases, it was obvious it was a group activity.

He then ruled that it was not “capricious, arbitrary, perverse or unreasonable” for the school to have cancelled graduation.

According to Sir Michael, ditch day was nothing other than a group action and the ACEA was entitled to regard all other activities including the video as group actions; this despite the fact the school board only entered into evidence that 17 students participated in ditch day, five took part in the “Kotch Dance” video and two were found with cell phones, out of a class of 114.

Attorney for the parents, Christina Galanos was seeking repayment of more than $2,000 for each of her clients for emotional distress, but Sir Michael ruled that he is not satisfied that a party should be unjustly enriched by the lawful exercise of the contractual right.

However, he did express hope that the ACEA could find a way to reimburse the $300 graduation fee to those students who had no direct evidence linking them to any wrongdoing; adding however that there is no legal obligation for the ACEA to do so.

Sir Michael also expressed sympathy for those students and their parents who did not participate in any misconduct.

Outside court, Vice Chancellor for the ACEA Diane Stewart said she thinks the chief justice did the right thing.

“I think it’s an unfortunate set of circumstances, but it was the right decision that was made,” she said.

“I’m just glad it’s over and we can all move on. I just believe it’s been a learning experience for everybody and we need to learn from it and move on.”

The case heads back to court next month.

“In September, we will be dealing with the issue of whether or not the losing party should pay the costs of the successful party,” she added.

While she declined an on camera interview outside court, Ms. Galanos did email a statement Friday stating, “On behalf of my clients, I would like to thank the chief justice for expressing his sympathy for the students and their parents who have not participated in any misconduct complained of by the Anglican Central Education Authority. We thank him for acknowledging that no amount of money can really compensate them for the disappointment they have endured by not culminating their high school career with the traditional graduation exercises.”

It also read, “We thank him further for his expression of hope that the Anglican Central Education Authority could find the way to reimburse those for whom no direct evidence of wrongdoing exist.”

Ms. Galanos has not revealed if she plans to file an appeal.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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