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School fights for rights in dope case

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 23/05/2016

A Tauranga college says it should have been within its rights to kick out German students despite them smoking cannabis off school grounds and outside of school time.

Domestic students wouldn't have been dealt with so harshly, but Tauranga Boys College says because it has pastoral responsibility for the boys it should also have power to terminate its contract with them.

In March 2014, five German students went to a Tauranga park and smoked a joint. When the school found out two were kicked out, one withdrew and two were allowed to stay.

The school is seeking a judicial review of a confidential but critical International Education Appeal Authority report, which came out months after the boys returned to Germany.

In the High Court at Wellington on Monday, the court was told the three boys were excluded because of "gross misconduct", which also included their lack of remorse, disrespect and failure to tell the school of drugs being used at their home stays.

The school also admitted it was wrong for a staff member to threaten a 16-year-old, who spoke little English, with a drug test at the local police station.

However, the school's lawyer Rebecca Dickson says there are gaps between the Education Act, which only allows a state school to discipline for acts on school grounds, and the pastoral care code for international students.

The school had a contract with the students' parents to follow the school rules.

The student's transgressions might not have offended their home stay families but the school - with its pastoral care responsibility - should still be able to cancel the contract, she said.

However, the appeal authority's legal representative in court, Jason McHerron, said the school's board had not even cited the contract when deciding to exclude the students.

Justice Rebecca Ellis is expected to reserve her decision.

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