Schoolgirl not playing games with court case

Laura Clark IN LONDON

A BRITISH schoolgirl who claims being kept in detention violated her human rights is suing education bosses for damages.

Freya MacDonald, 15, says she was kept back after class 11 times in seven months for what she said were "trivial" offences such as drinking a soft drink during class.

Now, supported by her mother, she is suing her local education authority, claiming the detentions were unlawful under the European Convention on Human, Rights which was incorporated into UK law two years ago.

Her solicitor has claimed the punishment was illegal without a court order.

MacDonald is also seeking compensation for "psychological damage" she claims she suffered.

The case centres on a series of lunchtime detentions handed out to the teenager by Speyside High for much of last term, claiming she feared she was being victimised.

Now she is back in school but said she was going ahead with the case.

"I have had a lot of my education affected," she said. "I stayed off school for a long time because of it and I don't want other children treated the way I have been."

Solicitor Cameron Fyfe said detention in schools was unlawful under the convention unless the school had obtained a court order.

"Clearly most schools are not going to get court orders because it is difficult from a practical point of view," he said.

"If this case is successful, it could bring about an end to the traditional punishment of detention. Schools would have to find another way of disciplining the children."

Her mother Annie MacDonald said she felt very strongly about pursuing the case.

"It has had a very detrimental effect on my daughter's wellbeing, her confidence and her health in general," she claimed. "She started off a conscientious student who wanted to do well in school but time after time she was being called out of class for detentions. The result was that she refused to return to school in September until her human rights were observed.

"Eventually the headmaster in November sent a letter saying that Freya would be treated in ways which respected her human rights, civil rights and her dignity."

Secondary Heads Association general secretary John Dunford, said: "I hope the court throws this right out, if it ever gets to court, otherwise teachers will find it increasingly difficult to enforce discipline."

Daily Mail

The Courier Mail Wednesday 1 Jan 2003 Page 20