Vic Supreme Court dismisses suit against education department over enrolment of homeschooled child

The suit concerns the enrolment of the child at a new school without the father's consent

Vic Supreme Court dismisses suit against education department over enrolment of homeschooled child

The Supreme Court of Victoria recently dismissed a father's lawsuit against the Department of Education and Training Victoria concerning the unauthorized enrolment of his homeschooled daughter in a new school.

In Charleton v The Department of Education and Training Victoria [2024] VSC 141, the father argued that the department had breached various duties of care towards him by facilitating his daughter's enrolment at a new school without his consent and by denying permission for her partial homeschooling, leading to his psychiatric injury.

Initially, the plaintiff's daughter attended a primary school near his home and was registered for homeschooling. However, after the end of his relationship with his ex-partner, she allegedly enrolled their daughter in a new school for the last two days of the December 2020 term without his knowledge. Additionally, in January 2021, she reportedly obtained court orders to continue the daughter’s enrolment at the new school.

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The plaintiff's wide-ranging allegations against individuals associated with both the original and the new schools included claims of policy breaches by the Department and defamation, which he stated led to severe psychiatric injuries, including major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder, among others. He sought damages exceeding $1.6 million.

Throughout the legal proceedings, the plaintiff submitted multiple statements of claim to lay out his case and legal bases for his allegations. However, the department argued these documents failed to adequately articulate a cause of action or properly detail the specific legal wrongs and the basis for the department’s accountability.

The Supreme Court highlighted that the department, as a state entity, is immune from tort claims except under specific conditions outlined in the Crown Proceedings Act 1958 (Vic). It noted the plaintiff’s failure to specify how any alleged misconduct by department employees or agents occurred within their employment scope, which is necessary for establishing the department’s vicarious liability.

The court also pointed out the excessive length and complexity of the pleadings, which contained numerous allegations against non-parties and made vague, unparticularised statements beyond the primary claims. Given these issues, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case lacked any real chance of success and accordingly dismissed the lawsuit.  

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