Mum angry at schools rejecting her disabled son

NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA
Last updated 05:00 25/04/2012
Maxine Jeffreys with twins Olivia and Levi,
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ
HUMAN RIGHTS FIGHT: Maxine Jeffreys with twins Olivia and Levi, eight. The Hamilton mum is part of a nationwide group of angry parents preparing to take legal action against schools that turn away their disabled children.

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Maxine Jefferys is part of a nationwide group of angry parents preparing to take ground-breaking legal action against schools that turn away their disabled children.

The office of Human Rights Proceedings recently agreed to provide legal representation to take their case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal after disabled services provider IHC's original complaint – lodged in 2008 – was not resolved within the Human Rights Commission's mediation service.

Its case is being backed up by first-hand accounts from disgusted parents such as Mrs Jefferys.

The Hamilton mum went through turmoil trying to enrol her son Levi, 8, who is both blind and autistic, as a new entrant when he was 6.

While she had no trouble enrolling Levi's twin sister Olivia – who has no disability – one school refused to enrol Levi because it said parents had threatened to withdraw their children if he was enrolled.

Another Hamilton school that would not enrol Levi told her she was being too demanding.

She was at breaking point when Woodstock School, in Fairfield, finally agreed to enrol him, along with Olivia.

"When we rang the principal [of Woodstock] I was in tears," Mrs Jefferys said.

"It was absolute sheer desperation because my daughter's education was suffering because of it."

Mrs Jefferys wanted the twins to be schooled together.

"She is only now just starting to bounce back."

Mrs Jefferys said Levi was doing wonderfully at Woodstock, but she had a "list as long as your arm" of other parents who had gone through similar ordeals.

Some children had been excluded from special outings or activities, or punished for behaviour related to their disability.

"It makes me angry that schools can get away with this ... they need to be held accountable."

Mrs Jefferys was pleased human rights lawyers were taking up their fight.

She said it was important for the Government to recognise that more training on how to teach disabled children needed to be given to teachers.

"They need to get trained, be given a fair go, to be able to meet the needs of our children."

IHC aims to get a declaration of discrimination due to the long-term problems experienced by parents.

"The Government needs to take responsibility to ensure equal learning opportunities are provided to all students," IHC director of advocacy Trish Grant said.

"This is a human-rights issue, not an education issue."

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- Waikato Times

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