Private school stole my son: SA mum’s astonishing claim
A MOTHER who claims her son was "stolen" by a prestigious Adelaide private school for two years has won an appeal against a court decision forcing her to pay $15,000 in school fees.
The mother claims the teenager was hidden from her and housed in a Baptist Church facility during his final two years at school, after he turned 16.
During that time she claims she and her husband, the boy's stepfather, "lost contact" with their son due to "interference" by Christian Brothers College and a "particular counsellor employed by the school", who had written a letter saying it was "unsafe" for the son to live in the family home.
The mother has now won a Supreme Court appeal against an Adelaide Magistrates Court decision which dismissed her application to set aside a judgment that found she was liable for $14,836 in fees.
The child's stepfather at one stage emailed the school and politicians, asking: "Are we supposed to pay the Christian Brothers College for them to steal our only child from us?"
In a Supreme Court judgment, Justice Sam Doyle said the boy's family "initially did not know where their son was living, and indeed were not given the information about him and his whereabouts that they were seeking."
They later discovered he was living at a Baptist Church facility but "had no ability to contact him".
"According to (the mother), the school in effect precluded them from having any contact with their son," Justice Doyle said in the judgment.
"They were aware that he was continuing to attend the school, but believed that his academic performance was declining."
Despite emailing, telephoning and meeting with staff at the school, the parents were "not successful in having contact with their son".
The parents said that a month before he moved out of the family home they advised the college that they no longer wanted him to attend and instead planned for him to move into a public high school.
They said the school did not respond to those requests and that they "should not worry about finances for (our son), because now that he turns 16 he qualified for Centrelink benefits".
In an affidavit filed before the court and reprinted in the judgment, the mother says her basis for refusing to pay the outstanding fees was the "role of the school's staff in the breakdown of our relationship" and their request to have him transferred to the public school.
In later emails, which the stepfather sent to the school, church officials and politicians, he claimed the boy had been "forcibly taken away" by the school.
"Since (our son) is living completely independently the school promised to pay all his school fees," he wrote.
"We have been completely cut off from any access to (his) school progress and results."
In an email from the school to the stepfather, the principal said he would keep asking the student to return home and was open to advice on how to assist that happening.
"Whilst he remains at CBC we have been assisting him with food, clothing, school uniform and fees," the email says.
The school had maintained the parents, who later restored their relationship with their son after he turned 18 and left the school, were "contractually obligated" to pay the fees.
The parents claimed that because the school fees were payable on an annual basis and they had not signed fee contracts for the years their son did not live with them, they were not liable for those outstanding amount.
"We informed the school that we would not be paying any accounts it send to us unless (our son) was returned to our custody. That never happened. That is why I did not sign the School Fee Agreements for (those years)," she told the court.
Justice Doyle set aside the Magistrates Court order for the woman to pay.
Christian Brothers College has been contacted for comment.