25 Feb 2014

School disagrees with court decision

4:49 pm on 25 February 2014

Green Bay High School says it disagrees with a High Court decision quashing its exclusion of a boy with Asperger's syndrome and dyslexia.

The court said on Monday the school did not consider all the facts before it suspended and then excluded the boy in July last year.

During a tussle over a skateboard, the 14-year-old walked out of a lesson, swore at a teacher, and closed a door on him, striking the teacher's head and jamming his arm.

The boy's lawyer, Simon Judd, said the school had reduced the level of support for him a few weeks before the incident that resulted in his exclusion.

"If that teacher was struggling to deal with this particular student with his unique difficulties then it was the responsibility of management within the school and ultimately the principal to put in place mechanisms to help individual teachers to cope."

The school's board says the staff involved went the extra mile to manage the student's needs. It says all available resources were accessed and strategies put in place.

Chairperson Norm Wallace said the court decision is disappointing. "The decision is very, very lightweight. I think it's going to cause problems to boards throughout the country who look to these sort of decisions for guidance, because I think it's not a clear decision."

However, Mr Wallace said the boy is welcome to return to the school.

It's a struggle, say principals

Principals say the court case has highlighted tensions around special education. Principals Federation president Philip Harding says many principals report their schools struggle with special needs education.

"Ninety-seven percent of principals surveyed said to us special education is underfunded and it's a major stress within their school context.

"I think sometimes the funding is there but it's not accessible or it's locked up in people that can't deliver the support that a school really needs. But certainly the perception that principals have clearly given is that special education needs more money."

The federation and the Secondary Principals Association say the High Court decision shows schools need to be careful to follow the education plans they have for students with special needs.