IHC takes action over discrimination claims

Last updated 19:10 30/04/2014

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Intellectual disability service provider IHC is taking legal aim at the Ministry of Education over claims schools are discriminating against disabled students.

In a complaint filed with the Human Rights Review Tribunal today, IHC says the Government is not giving equal rights to children with disabilities.

The Ministry of Education denied the allegations and said it would take action against any schools discriminating against children.

However, IHC director of advocacy Trish Grant said schools were disciplining high-needs students rather than supporting them.

The complaint follows an ongoing court battle over the exclusion of an Auckland teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome.

Green Bay School is appealing a recent High Court decision that quashed the school's decision to exclude the boy from the school last year.

The boy was excluded from the school after an argument with a teacher over a skateboard. The school argued the student posed a risk to other students.

Grant said the case highlighted what could go wrong when a school didn't support students with special needs.

"These students are legally entitled to attend their local schools," Grant said.

"If they are prevented from enrolling, or treated differently from their non-disabled peers, then it's a human rights issue." The Green Bay student, who has name suppression, has been out of mainstream school for a year.

The boy was just one of many children facing discrimination because schools didn't have the resources to deal with students with disabilities, Grant said.

Lawyer Frances Joychild, QC, will head IHC's legal team.

The Government must not breach a child's right to be free from discrimination under the Human Rights Act.

The Ministry of Education plans to contest the allegations.

"We are keen to hear from the IHC on any cases of children experiencing discrimination in their access to schooling, so we can take action," the ministry's head of sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said.

The ministry worked closely with schools to ensure all students were supported, she said.

"No-one wants to see any child being denied full access to learning because they have a special education need."

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- Fairfax Media

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