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Judge allows new parent council rules

Stephen Hellman

A judge has allowed for the enactment of new school parent council rules in the face of a court challenge by the Bermuda Parent Teacher Student Association.

Puisne Judge Stephen Hellman ruled against the injunction, or “stay”, on the Ministry of Education’s action, during a new hearing in Civil Court yesterday afternoon.

It follows an interim Civil Court ruling from Mr Justice Hellman last month, that allowed the introduction of new PTA parent council rules, potentially replacing school PTAs, along with the transfers of principals and teachers just ahead of the new school term.

Representing the BPTSA in challenging the decision yesterday, Eugene Johnston told the court that his client should have been consulted not only on which body would replace the boards of governors at individual schools but also on the enactment of PTA rules themselves: a point that Delroy Duncan, representing the ministry, contested.

Mr Duncan said: “There was a requirement to consult with the PTAs and as a matter of policy the Government decided it was going to change that by virtue of section 73 of the Education Amendment Act 2015.

“The Ministry of Education was put in place of the boards of governors; the parent council rules were also contained in that piece of legislation and the minister, having consulted, was free to take on board the responses and then create the parent council rules. The PTAs were consulted about what they were required to be consulted about.”

The question was raised as to whether the legitimate expectation extended to consultation on the rules and Mr Duncan argued that the court could not decide that without hearing the evidence at trial.

“The court should not grant a stay for that reason,” he said. Mr Johnson told the judge the consultation process was not adequate, arguing that none of the phases of consultation were in place.

“In none of these phases was the proposal put that parent councils would exist in every school and that they offset the rules of the PTAs and by virtue of that alone we say the consultation was unfair. There are more reasons why.”

A substantive hearing on the case is due.