The ACT Human Rights Commission finds Brindabella Christian College was wrong to end enrolment for two boys in retribution for complaints their mother had made about the school.

The mother of two boys who were removed from an independent Canberra school’s enrolment list after she made a complaint, says she is doubtful Brindabella Christian College (BCC) will change, despite the Human Rights Commission finding it was wrong for them to punish her sons.
Key points:

  • The ACT Human Rights Commission found Brindabella Christian College was wrong to exclude two boys after it had a falling out with their mother
  • The boys were told they were not welcome at the school after their mother made complaints about how the school was being run
  • The mother, Jodie Jayatilaka, welcomed the findings, but says she is doubtful the school will cooperate with her in future

Jodie Jayatilaka complained about the school’s operations after her daughter, who as school captain made comments critical of BCC in a speech, was criticised by the school’s board.
Ms Jayatilaka’s two youngest boys, Timothy and James, were due to return to BCC in 2020 to begin Year 12 and Year 9, respectively, when the college sent a letter to say they were no longer welcome.
Timothy was a sports captain, and James had been awarded the 2019 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year, but the school said they would be un-enrolled because believed their parents no longer had faith in its system.
“Due to recent events of concern the School requests that you find alternate education for the children. Please now understand that your children are not going to be re-enrolled at the School,” lawyers for Brindabella Christian College wrote.
“You have encouraged others to also find issues with the way in which the School and the education is administered in a way that has created an unhealthy environment of anger and disunity.”
Ms Jayatilaka said the boys’ exclusion was retribution for her complaints against the school a claim the Human Rights Commission yesterday upheld.
“The decision to exclude the two brothers from the school without any opportunity to be consulted, to provide their views and to participate in the decision, is not consistent with general principles of procedural fairness,” discrimination commissioner Karen Toohey said in her report.
Ms Toohey recommended the independent school review its procedures and develop enrolment standards consistent with government schools.
Mother says boys were ‘isolated’ as a result of effective expulsion
Timothy Jayatilaka at his year 12 graduation at the end of 2020 with father Aldrin (left) and mother Jodie (right).(Supplied)
Ms Jayatilaka said while she was relieved to be supported by the Human Rights Commission, she had little faith the school would change.
“At the end of the day, the Human Rights Commission simply asking the school to change their policy is not enough,” she said.
Ms Jayatilaka said the consequences of the effective expulsion were that her boys had lost friends, relationships with teachers and their learning had been interrupted.
“It’s been really difficult for them to both have to step into new schools,” Ms Jayatilaka said.
“[It’s been] isolating and distressing and they haven’t been able to understand why the school did this.”
She noted it had been particularly disruptive for Timothy, who was in his final year of school.
“It was very difficult for him, as you can imagine, starting out with new friends, new teachers, a new cohort in the middle of his year 11-12 studies,” she said.
Human Rights Commission says it will enforce recommendations
Brindabella Christian College has been given six months to change its policies.(ABC News)
Speaking to ABC Radio Canberra, Ms Toohey said BCC had snubbed opportunities to be involved in the investigation.
She said she hoped with the release of its report, the school would now speak to the agency.
But she warned the Human Rights Commission had powers to enforce its recommendations if the school continued not to cooperate.
“We’ll certainly be following those up both with the college and the Education Directorate,” she said.
“We would hope that now the report has been made public we will be able to engage with the school and we wont need to undertake any of those enforcement measures.”
The school has been given six months to change its policies.
Brindabella Christian College did not respond to a request for comment.