Student missed formal due to illegal suspension period: Ombudsman

A Year 12 student missed her high school formal because her principal suspended her for longer than legally allowed.

Her case was one of hundreds investigated by the Queensland Ombudsman in 2016-17, and detailed in its latest annual report.

The girl was suspended from school on November 1, 2016, and the principal told her she could come back to school on November 21.

The Queensland Ombudsman finalised 6958 complaints in 2016-17.

The Queensland Ombudsman finalised 6958 complaints in 2016-17.

Her school's graduation was going to take place on November 17 and the senior formal was on the next day - but the principal told her she could not attend either function.

The girl complained about the suspension process and her mother complained it had taken a long time to save the money for her daughter's formal dress and accessories for the formal, and it was unfair she was not allowed to go.

The Ombudsman found the principal had suspended the girl for longer than legally allowed.

"This meant that she had not been legally suspended on the night of the formal, and should have been allowed to attend," its report reads.

Under Education Queensland rules, a short suspension is one to 10 days and a long suspension is 11 to 20 days.

The department accepted the office's recommendation that it compensate the girl and her mother for the money they spent on her dress and accessories for the formal.

It also implemented professional development for all principals in the region about legislative requirements and departmental processes for student disciplinary decisions.

The Queensland Ombudsman investigates complaints about the actions and decisions of state government departments and agencies, councils and public universities, and finalised 6958 complaints in 2016-17.

Of the 6923 complaints received last year, 67 per cent were about state government agencies, 26 per cent were about councils and 4.5 per cent were about public universities.

Out of the departments, Justice and Attorney-General, Education and Training, and Housing and Public Works received the most complaints.

The Ombudsman finalised 1407 investigations, a 26 per cent increase on the previous year.

There was an increase of 36 per cent in the number of public interest disclosures (PIDs) - disclosures about wrongdoing in the public sector that serves the public interest - across all agencies.

Of the 718 PIDs reported, 53 per cent were about corrupt conduct.

Here are some examples:

International student kicked out of university

An international student was excluded from his university for unsatisfactory academic performance - but he complained the university did not provide him with enough help and support with his studies before kicking him out.

Universities are required to have a range of supports in place to help international students adjust to living and studying in Australia.

When a university identifies an international student is at risk of failing their course, they are required to develop a support plan tailored to the student's individual needs and circumstances and monitor their progress before excluding them.

The university did not identify the reasons for his poor performance, refer him to any learning assistance programs, refer him to any welfare-related support services or raise the possibility of a reduced study load with him.

After the investigation, the university agreed to readmit the student, develop an individualised support plan for him and revise policies.

Justice for man's best friend

A dog owner complained about council action to seize and destroy his dog after complaints about barking.

The investigation questioned the reasonableness of the council's actions in seeking to execute a warrant to seize the dog for destruction.

The Ombudsman was concerned evidence collected by the council to support seizing the dog was not gained through an impartial investigation.

Although the council disagreed with the Ombudsman's reasoning, it agreed not to obtain a further warrant to seize the dog or use the evidence previously obtained in any future compliance action.

SPER debt prevents trip home

A man had been making fortnightly payments on his State Penalties Enforcement Registry debt, repaying $934.57 despite having financial hardship.

He was trying to drive home from Western Australia to Queensland but was having trouble paying for food and petrol for the trip.

The Ombudsman decided it was too early for it to investigate, so referred it to SPER, which contacted the man, got documents to support his claim of financial hardship and refunded his $934.57, allowing him to make the trip home.

Salary overpayments

A former employee of a state government agency received notices of demand to pay outstanding salary overpayments of about $3100.

They contested the amount and said they had finalised the issue six years earlier, raising the concerns with the agency but did not receive a response.

The Ombudsman referred the details to the agency, as it had not responded.

The agency apologised, advised the demands for payment were sent in error, and the notices were waived.

Rumours of death were greatly exaggerated

A woman obtained a copy of her late father's death certificate from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. It erroneously listed her and her sister as deceased children.

She advised the registry of the error and it corrected the information - she was worried a family member may have told the registry she and her sister were dead.

The Ombudsman raised concerns about the verification of information on the death certificates.

The registry said information provided in an online application for a death certificate was mostly accepted in good faith without checking the accuracy of historical information, such as the death of a deceased's child.

It issued a correct certificate and agreed to consider the Ombudsman's concerns as part of a legislative review.

This story Student missed formal due to illegal suspension period: Ombudsman first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.