Divisional Court Quashes Private School’s Decision to Expel Student Who Smoked Pot in His Dorm Room

Two judges of the Divisional Court have quashed the decision of a private high school to expel a student, on his last day before graduation, for smoking pot in his dorm room.

Gautam Setia attended Appley College (a well regarded private high school) in Oakville, Ontario. The night before his final exam he met up with some friends to celebrate the end of high school. They smoked some marijuana off campus and Gautam and a friend later returned to his residence. While in his room they smoked the last bit of pot, and got caught. Gautam admitted to smoking marijuana in his room and admitted that he knew a potential consequence would be expulsion.

Within 24 hours, the Head of School made the decision to expel Gautam, ban him from attending graduation ceremonies and from receiving his Appleby College Diploma (Gautam would however be able to obtain his Ontario Secondary School Diploma which meant he could still apply to university).

Gautam’s parents requested a meeting with the Head of School in advance of any disciplinary decision being made. The request was denied as a result of the Head of School’s busy schedule.

Gautam and his parents applied to the Divisional Court for judicial review of the decision.

Most interesting, to me, was the fact that the Divisional Court had jurisdiction to hear the application and the reason for its jurisdiction.

Most private schools in Ontario are incorporated under the Ontario Corporations Act. However, Appleby College was created over 100 years ago by a Special Act of the Ontario Legislature. Given that the school was created by Statute, and that the Statue gave the school’s Board of Directors the power to confer upon its officers “such powers of administration and discipline as it may think necessary”, any decision by the school concerning administration and discipline is an exercise of a statutory power and is therefore reviewable by the Court.

The Divisional Court (with one judge dissenting) quashed the Head of School’s decision as a result of his failure to meet with Gautam’s parents prior to making his decision and denying them an opportunity to make representations with respect to the appropriate sanction. The Court referred the case back to the school to make a decision, saying:

With the guidance of these reasons, the Head of School is in the best position to interpret and apply that Code of Conduct, balancing the seriousness of the offence and the interests of the offender with the school’s broader interest and perspective, including its responsibility to other students and other parents.


  1. Perhaps the majority of the Divisional Court wanted to give Appelby administrators a chance to make less of an ass of themselves on their second chance. Otherwise their action must make the school far less attractive to parents (not to mention students) who see an extremely minor lapse within 24 hours of the end of studies threaten years of very heavy financial and other contributions to what they thought was their kids’ future. I sure wouldn’t send a kid of mine anywhere near a place as blinkered and uptight as that – and I recognize that some poeple choose such schools because the discipline of public schools has not sufficed for their kids.