Executive Director of Blue Gum School Maureen Hartung. Photo: Jay Cronan
Parents of a primary student have lost their bid to force a private northside school to accept their enrolment.
The legal drama began when the parents, who Fairfax Media has declined to name to protect the child, took Blue Gum Community School and its principal to court after it withdrew the place it had offered the girl.
The family applied to send their daughter to the small northside school in 2010 on the advice of a friend. The parents separated shortly after and the father began an affair with the friend who recommended the school.
In mid-2011, Blue Gum told the family a place was open for their daughter, but a week later the friend took out a protection order against the father in the ACT Magistrates Court. The court order banned the father from going near the woman or to the Blue Gum School.
The school withdrew the offered spot as a result, with the principal telling the family she had become aware of "serious matters which made it impossible for [their] family to join the school community at Blue Gum".
The court order was lifted two months later and the parents launched the legal action, alleging defamation, breach of contract, and breach of duty of care.
The family also attempted to have the friend who recommended the school joined as a defendant, but Master David Harper refused the application.
The parents argued Blue Gum School had defamed them by writing letters to the Human Rights Commission and ACT Education Department disclosing the court order against the father.
They said the school had breached a contract by withdrawing the place offered to their daughter and sought a court order to allow the girl to attend the school.
The parents also claimed the principal acted negligently by failing to give them a right to respond to the allegations before withdrawing the
offer for their daughter, treating them without dignity, and causing them to suffer damage, both financial and emotional.
But Master Harper threw out all three complaints. In a judgment published on Thursday he said the defamation allegations had failed as the correspondence was protected by qualified privilege. He also found the contract was not one enforceable by a court and no duty of care existed between the family and school.
"If such a duty exists, it does not in any event seem to me that anything done by either the first or the second defendant amounted to a breach of duty," he wrote.
Master Harper dismissed the case. He ordered the parents to pay the costs of the school, the principal and the friend.