Conciliated outcomes: education

Updated October 2009. For more recent outcomes please refer to the Commission's conciliation register

Reminder: Conciliated settlements are usually made without admission of liability and may not provide firm precedents for other cases.

Accommodating behavioural disorders in education

A man complained on behalf of his grandson, a year 6 school student, that reasonable adjustments were not being made to accommodate his disabilities including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. He was concerned that his grandson had been suspended on several occasions, and was frequently sent home from school early.

The complaint was resolved with an agreement to develop an action plan which focussed on the student's transition from primary school to high school and including an individually tailored transition program, a communication strategy and assessments by relevant educational experts.

Exam procedure adjusted

A university student complained that he had not been offered alternative times for sitting exams which he needed because of physical and psychological injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident. The complaint was resolved with an agreement to work with the student to make alternative arrangements for future examinations and assessments.

Back on the bus

The parents of a boy who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair complained that his local public school had replaced a bus fitted with a wheelchair lifter with a new bus without wheelchair access and their son was no longer able to get into the bus to attend school excursions and camps.

The complaint was resolved when the school agreed to fit a wheelchair lifter to the new school bus, and to develop protocols for communication between the school and parents about the boy's participation in activities.

2008

A place on stage

A mother complained that her daughter, who has a physical disability, could not participate in an arts project involving all the other members of her class, a presentation of Balinese dancing. The complaint was resolved when the school arranged tutoring to enable the girl to play Indonesian percussion music and accompany her classmates on stage.

Individual support needs re-assessed

A mother and father complained that their daughter, who has attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, was receiving inadequate support at school or enable her to learn effectively or remain safely at school during the day. The complaint was resolved when the education authority agreed to fund an assessment of the girl's needs and options for effective education for her.

Extra time

A school student who has a hand tremor because of a disability complained that he had not been granted adequate adjustments for undertaking his upcoming final exams. The complaint was resolved with the education authority agreeing to provide the student with an extra 10 minutes per 30 minutes exam time to be used to write, dictate or rest as he chose.

Oral interpreting rearranged

A student who is Deaf and whose first language is thus not English complained that he was being disadvantaged in his senior school examinations b not being able to choose a sufficiently qualified teacher for interpreting of science exam questions. The complaint was resolved when the education authority made arrangements to have available a teacher with suitable subject knowledge.

Accommodations for child with autism spectrum disorder

A mother complained that her son who has an autism spectrum disorder was not being effectively accommodated in his primary school education. The complaint was resolved with an agreement by the education authority to develop and implement an improved individual education program.

Access to school facilities

A woman whose son uses a wheelchair complained that school ceremonies were held in a hall which only had inaccessible toilets, despite representations being made to the school over several years. After the Commission explained to the school that the Disability Discrimination Act does in fact apply to use of premises constructed before the commencement of the Act, and that provision of accessible toilets on the other side of the school did not guarantee compliance with the DDA, the complaint was resolved with an agreement to upgrade the facilities to provide access.

Accommodation of autism

A father complained that his son who has autism had been discriminated against by being failed for not completing a group work component of a year 12 course. The complaint was resolved when the school agreed to improve procedures for communication with the parents regarding assessment tasks so they could assist their son in developing skills required.

 

2007

Access to trade course

A mother complained that her son, who has a learning disability, had been refused admission to a technical college which he wished to attend to gain a trade qualification. The complaint was resolved when the educational authority undertook to provide support to enable the young man to participate in the course successfully.

Adjustments in exams

A girl who has a learning disability affecting her reading and writing complained that she had not received sufficient reasonable accommodation in exam procedures. The complaint was resolved when the education authority agreed to provide 10 minutes extra time in a number of subjects and a reader for mathematics exams.

In another complaint a boy who has been assessed as having dysgraphia complained of receiving insufficient accommodation. The complaint was resolved when the education authority agreed to provide 10 minutes extra time and to permit the use of a word processor in exams.

Compensation for limited access to adjustments

A man who has a vision impairment complained that he had been disadvantaged in his studies by limits in the availability of assistive technology in his university's library. The complaint was resolved when the university agreed to waive his fees for the semester.

Reminders for child with ADD

A mother complained that her child, who has been assessed as having attention deficit disorder, was excluded from the school choir after forgetting to attend practice. The complaint was resolved with an agreement to introduce a communication book so that the child and her parents would have easy access to reminders about important school events.

Joining in excursions

A mother complained that her daughter had been denied access to school excursions because of her disability. The complaint was settled when the education authority agreed to permit the complainant to act as a back-up volunteer assistant if arrangements to provide assistance for the student on excursions broke down on any occasion in future.

Responding to allergies in pre-school

Parents complained that their child had been excluded from a pre-school because of nut allergy. The complaint was resolved with an agreement to admit the child and ensure that staff were trained in identifying and responding to allergic reactions.

Accommodating learning disabilty in TAFE

The mother of a young man with a learning disability complained that he had been refused enrolment in a TAFE program and advised that adjustments to accommodate his disability would not be provided. The complaint was resolved when the educational authority agreed to enrol the young man and develop a reasonable adjustment plan.

Sign language interrpeting in adult education

A woman who is deaf complained that an adult education provider had refused to provide sign language interpreting for a course. The complaint was resolved with an agreement to pay $3000 compensation.

Allergies in residential courses

A student with severe allergies including to perfumes complained that a residential course was not accessible to him because only shared rooms were available. The complaint was resolved with an agreement to provide access to a single room.

2006

Access to course materials

A university student who is blind complained that course materials were not always provided, or provided in a timely manner, in an accessible format. The complaint was resolved with an agreement for the student to provide notice 8 weeks before semesters of intended courses and of her access needs; and for the university to source electronic texts from publishers where possible as well as providing a participation assistant for 60 hours per semester to assist with library searches and scanning of materials.

Adjustments for exam

A student complained that an education authority was refusing to provide adjustments for final exams to be conducted in eight days time. The complaint was resolved within 4 days of receipt with an agreement to provide the adjustments.

Education access and mental health issues

A father complained that his daughter had been refused selection for an education program , based in part on her having been treated for depression and concerns that the demands of the program could cause a return of this condition. The matter was settled when the respondent agreed to pay $7000 compensation and revise its procedures to ensure that appropriate medical advice would be obtained and taken into account in any further cases where health concerns were raised.

Adjustments for student with intellectual disability 

Parents of a boy with an intellectual disability complained that he had been discriminated against in not being fully included in classroom activities or excursions and required to be collected earlier than the finishing time for other students. The school noted concerns regarding his ability to participate effectively as well as safety issues with a tendency to leave the school grounds. The complaint was resolved without admission of liability with an agreement by the school to provide an additional $3500 for individual tutoring, and to monitor the boy's progress with this additional assistance.

Adjustments for student with learning disabilities

A mother complained that her son, who has a learning disability and has been assessed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, had not had his disabilities effectively accommodated by his school. The complaint was resolved without admission of liability when the school agreed to develop a plan, in collaboration with a peak education body and the boy's mother, to identify adjustments for the assessment tasks for each subject; provide professional development support for teachers in the design and implementation of adjustments to assessments; assist in the development of a policy on recording issues raised by parents and the procedure for sharing relevant information with school staff; develop a communication strategy to coordinate effective communication between all stakeholders; provide professional development on the prevention of victimisation and bullying of students with disabilities; and waive two terms fees for the student. 

Chronic fatigue and education

Parents complained that their daughter, who had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, was being discriminated against in bein required to repeat a year on grounds of gaps in attendance. The complaint was resolved without admission of liability when the school agreed to pay $15,000 compensation and review its policies on disability, learning support and special consideration.

Adjustments for learning disorder 

A mother complained that her son's school had not taken appropriate steps to accommodate her son's auditory processing difficulty. The matter was resolved without admission of liability with an agreement to meet to develop an individual education plan including with the input of a speech pathologist, and to review the plan within 4 months.

Access for parent with a disability

A woman who has a disability affecting mobility complained that her daughter's school classroom was not accessible to her. The complaint was resolved when the education authority advised that ramp access had now been provided.

School adopts disability policy

A woman complained that her grandson had been discriminated against by an independent school when he was expelled because of behaviour associated with his psychological disorder. The complaint was settled when the school agreed to develop a disability policy expressing commitment to the value of diversity and compliance with the DDA and the Disability Standards for Education; participate in formal communication with families and assessment of development of students with disabilities throughout the year; and consult with the school's relevant peak association on disability procedures and policies.

Interpreter for film making course

A man who is deaf complained that he had been discriminated against when he was asked to arrange and pay for his own interpreter to participate in a community college course on making short films. The complaint was settled with an agreement to provide an accredited interpreter for the course.

Bullying of students with disabilities

A mother complained that her son who has a vision impairment had been bullied in relation to his use of assistive equipment for reading and that the school did not act quickly or fully to respond to this, leading them to change schools. The matter was settled when the school agreed to review its anti-bullying policy and include specific provisions on bullying of students with disabilities; conduct disability awareness training including on staff obligations under the DDA and the Disability Standards for Education; waive outstanding fees, pay $4000 compensation and allow the student to keep a laptop which had been obtained for him by the school.

2005

Technology and additional time improve exam opportunities

The father of a boy with dyspraxia (a disability affecting speech which can also affect learning to read) complained that his son was not receiving sufficient accommodation to afford him equal opportunity in secondary school exams. The complaint was resolved when the educational authority advised that new technology would allow the boy to have access to digital recordings of exam material and that he would be permitted an additional 10 minutes in every hour of exams to manage the technology.

In another case, the mother of a girl with speech dyspraxia similarly complained she had not been adequately accommodated. She had been offered an oral recording of exams but was seeking additional time instead. The complaint was resolved with an agreement to provide 60 minutes additional working time and use of a desktop computer for exams (with arrangements to ensure that this could not be used or perceived as being used to gain unfair advantages, for example by having spell checking removed).

Extra exam time to accommodate reading disability

A mother complained that her daughter's vision impairment and reading difficulties were not being adequately accommodated in arrangements for exams. The complaint was resolved with an agreement to provide an additional 2.5 minutes per 30 minutes of exam time (that is, an additional 15 minutes for a 3 hour exam).

Accommodating chronic fatigue syndrome

A PhD student who has chronic fatigue syndrome complained that accommodation of her disability had been inadequate and that requests for adjustments took too long to deal with. The complaint was resolved with an agreement to give the student one year of leave of absence and then permit recommencement of the degree program part time, and provide access to computer equipment.

Additional time for exams

A secondary college student who has an autistic disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a vision impairment complained that her disabilities had not been adequately accommodated in exam arrangements. The educational authority responded that the student's application for modified exam arrangements had been incomplete and provided after the due date. The complaint was resolved when the respondent advised that for future exams the student would be provided additional time and a separate exam room.

 

Accommodation of autistic disorder

A father complained that his son had been discriminated against by being excluded from a primary school excursion because of his autistic disorder which involves anxiety and behavioural problems. The complaint was resolved when the school advised that funding had been successfully sought for increased provision of a teacher's assistant to enable the boy's participation in an increased range of school activities.

Assistance hours increased

A mother complained that her daughter, who has cerebral palsy, had been discriminated against when her education provider reduced provision of additional support for her from 5 hours (which covered lunchtime and recess supervision) to 2 hours per week. The matter was resolved when the provider advised that after reconsideration support hours had been increased to 5 hours 25 minutes per week for the following 2 school years.

Captioning

Parents of a boy who is deaf complained that audio-visual materials used in the classroom were not captioned and that an excursion for the class to see a movie had been inaccessible because of a lack of captioning. The complaint was settled when the education authority agreed to develop an information package and policy statement on the captioning of audio-visual material

Interpreters in professional training course

A woman who is deaf complained that her professional association would not provide an interpreter to enable her to participate in its professional development courses. The complaint was settled when the association agreed to provide interpreters with 14 days notice.

Disruptive behaviour and education access

The mother of a 14year old boy with obsessive compulsive disorder and other disabilities affecting behaviour complained that he had been discriminated against when he was suspended from school, and then excluded from face to face elements of distance education adopted as an alternative, after incidents of inappropriate behaviour including violence. The complaint was settled when the parties agreed that mainstream schooling was not able to fulfil the student's needs and he was more successfully placed in a nearby specialist school.

2004

Access to course materials

A student who has a neurological condition affecting how he receives and processes spoken information complained that arrangements to provide him with lecture notes in written form had broken down and that he had failed subjects as a result. The complaint was settled when the university agreed to ensure that all lecturers provided notes when required in accordance with university policy, and to provide an exemption from HECS liability for the period of study affected by failure of arrangements for accessible materials.

In another case, a mother complained on behalf of her son who has a reading disability that materials were not being provided in CD form in a timely manner. The matter was settled with an agreement to improve access policies including ensuring that students were aware of school procedures for reasonable adjustments to be considered and for complaints, conducting additional disability awareness training for staff and refunding $15000 of fees.

School assessment adjusted

A father complained that his son, who has a number of disabilities including Asperger's syndrome and Tourette's syndrome, was being discriminated against by an assessment system for English oral presentation. The complaint was settled with an agreement to provide a number of modifications to testing procedures for the student to accommodate his disabilities, including taking tests in familiar environments and being allowed to colour code his notes.

Access to lecture rooms

A student who has chronic airways disease and has difficulty climbing stairs complained that lectures at his college had been scheduled on the first floor which has no lift. The complaint was settled when the college agreed to seek funding for installation of a lift and to increase staff training in disability awareness.

Return to boarding school

A mother complained that her daughter had been discriminated against by her school because of anorexia nervosa. She stated that the school would not let the student return as a boarder until she had regained a weight within the normal range because of concerns about upsetting other students. The complaint was settled when the school advised it was willing to have the student return as a full time boarder.

Accommodation of Asperger's syndrome in education

The mother of a boy with Asperger's syndrome complained that his disability had not been accommodated by his high school. He had been suspended for disruptive behaviour and hitting other students. The complaint was settled with an agreement that the boy's education at the school could continue with increased support including a mentoring program and a negotiated individual education plan.

Hepatitis C discrimination in education

A woman who is hepatitis C positive complained that she had been discriminated against in her pathology course. One element of the course involved students taking blood samples from each other. She was willing and able to take blood but asked that other students not take blood from her to avoid health risks. She claimed that as a result she was excluded from core components of the course. The complaint was settled with an apology, payment of $7000 compensation, and an agreement to have staff trained in issues regarding blood borne diseases.

2003

Accommodation in TAFE course

A mother complained that her daughter who has Asperger's syndrome had not had her disability accommodated by a TAFE institution leading to her withdrawal from the course. The matter was settled when the institution agreed to provide the student with assistance in appropriate conflict resolution methods.

Accommodating ADHD in education

A mother complained that she and her son were being discriminated against by his school because of his attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), including information about his disability not being passed on where required and teachers being unprepared to speak to her. The school denied any discrimination. The complaint was settled with an agreement to improve staff training and payment of $6000 compensation.

Access to college premises

A student with paraplegia complained that facilities at his college were inaccessible to him - including a computer building which although it had a lift also had a door he could not open, the disability support officer being located in a building with only stair access, and disability parking spaces frequently being occupied by other cars. The complaint was settled when the college advised that the computer building door was being replaced with automatic sliding doors, ramp access was being provided to the disability support office, and parking enforcement would be improved.

Accommodating autistic disorders in education

A father complained that his nine year old son who has autism spectrum disorder had not had his needs accommodated by his school. The school considered that it had in fact provided all required accommodation. The matter was settled with an apology for problems in communication between school and family and an agreement to provide ongoing support when required.

Accommodation of vision impairment in school tests

A mother of a boy who has a vision impairment (scotopic sensitivity syndrome) complained that his disability was not being accommodated in sitting a statewide test for year 5 students. The complaint was settled when the education authority agreed (within one month of the complaint being received by HREOC) to the test being provided to the boy on non-glossy blue paper in 24 point type as requested.

Access to lecture notes

A university student who is colour blind complained that lecture notes were provided by the lecturer in one of his technical courses on red paper in 10-point font and that he was unable to read them due to his disability. Although the lecturer had directed him to the university's electronic format for lecture notes and advised him that they could be printed in enlarged font on white paper, the student claimed this version was not the same as the notes handed out in the class and that there were problems downloading the material. He was marked as a fail in the subject and claimed that when he approached the lecturer to request an adjustment to the marks on the basis of failure to reasonably accommodate his disability, the lecturer refused.

The university responded to HREOC's inquiry by advising that the lecture notes were not the substantive course material but summaries of what was covered in the lecture. It advised that when the student approached the lecturer about the notes on red paper he was told that copies on larger font on white paper were available in the lecturer's office, but that the student had not come to collect them. The lecturer advised that the only difference in the computer version of the notes was related to one lecture in which a date was different, but that all the rest of the material was the same

A conciliation conference was conducted . The complainant accepted the position put by the university that he could have obtained the assistance made available to all students with downloading the computer notes, and that he could have visited the lecturer's office to collect the more accessible notes. He maintained that he did not do so because he was embarrassed about his disability being made more conspicuous and that it was the responsibility of the university to provide reasonable adjustment for vision-impaired students like himself without them having to draw attention to their differences because of their disability.

The complaint was settled on the basis that the university agreed to adjust the record and grant Mr M a terminating pass in the subject.

Inclusion in primary school

Parents complained on behalf of their daughter, aged 7, who has an intellectual disability and Autism Spectrum Disorder, that she was discriminated against when she commenced attendance in Grade 1 at the local primary school. They claimed the school failed to provide her with reasonable accommodation for her disability in the means it employed to prepare and present the curriculum to her, by limiting her attendance to two hours a day, and by applying the school discipline policy to her when she exhibited adverse behavioural manifestations of her disability. They claimed the class teacher showed little interest or skill in including her in the general class activities, that she was sent home "at the whim of" the teacher, and that the principal suggested she be moved to a special school. They also complained that they were discriminated against as associates of a person with a disability by being treated less favourably by the school than it treats other parents by being requested to attend frequent meetings, to come and supervise their daughter iin the playground and to be no more than 5 minutes away at all times. They removed her from the school after six weeks.

The respondent education authority claimed that efforts were made to ascertain L's particular needs so that it could prepare an individual program for her to assist her to access educational services in a way which was appropriate to her needs to accommodate her disability. It advised that it made sure it included the parents in meetings to discuss the program it was preparing to accommodate her disabilities. She was approved for disability support funding to provide an integration aide and occupational therapy and speech therapy services. It advised that the class teacher had provided detailed planning and resources for the girl and that her teachers received additional support from the Guidance Officer and an educational psychologist. It advised that the girl was still in the settling-in stage in starting a new school and denied it had discriminated against her by failing to provide reasonable accommodation for her disabilities.

A conciliation conference was conducted. The matter settled following post-conference negotiations by the provision of a written apology, provision of a computer to assist the girl's learning in the classroom at her new school, specialized equipment and educational programs for prepared for her, an assurance that the department would provide her with reasonable accommodation for her disability throughout her primary school years, and a sum of $5,000 in financial compensation for the stress and anxiety that the parentsclaimed they had experienced.

Adjustment to uniform policy

A girl who has asthma complained that the school she attends has a uniform policy which does not allow female students to wear slacks in the summer terms. She states that exposure to cold air exacerbates her asthma and that when it is cold in Terms 1 and 4 her asthma is exacerbated by the fact that her legs are exposed to cold air.

The respondent agreed to provide $100 for counselling sessions undertaken for emotional distress and to change its uniform policy to provide for exemptions where relevant to a student's disability.

University education - requirements for awards

A woman who has a disability and attends University part time and carries a 25% workload complained that that the criteria used by the University to determine eligibility for awards were discriminatory. To be eligible for the award concerned the student had to undertake at least a 50% workload.The complainant stated that she had lobbied to get the policy changed and it had been changed from 2002 and students with disabilities who had a 25% workload were now also eligible for awards but the policy was not retrospective.The complainant argued that at the same time the University considered 50% load a minimum to qualify for awards Centrelink considered a 25% workload a full time equivalent for students with disabilities.

The respondent agreed to make the award retrospectively.

Accessible format for course materials

A man who is blind enrolled in a business studies course at university to upgrade his qualifications. As he did not live close to the university he wanted to study by distance education. He advised the university's disability liaison officer that he needed to have the course material provided in a format compatible with the JAWS screen reader program he had purchased. He claims the disability liaison officer agreed to provide materials in the format requested. Course material was sent to the complainant but he alleges that none of the material was compatible with JAWS. He attended two meetings at the university to outline the difficulties he was experiencing and he claims was give assurances that the issues would be addressed. However, at the end of the 2001 academic year he had not completed any course work. He enrolled in 2002 but withdrew in May of that year. He alleged that the university had discriminated against him by not providing course material in a format he could access.

The university acknowledged that it had not anticipated the difficulties involved in translating material to a format compatible with JAWS, particularly in this course where there were tables and graphs as well as text. The university also acknowledged that the complainant may have been given assurances at the outset that could not be delivered later when the translation difficulties emerged.

The complaint was settled without admission of liability by the university paying the complainant financial compensation of $15,000.

Accommodating a student with Asperger's syndrome

A woman complained of discrimination in education on behalf of her 15 year old grandson who had Asperger's Syndrome. The grandson had recently moved to his grandparents' home and transferred to the local high school. The complainant alleged that her grandson had been suspended from school for conduct related to his disability such as answering back to teachers and refusing to comply with the dress code. He was required to attend a behaviour management program at a different location which allegedly did not include any academic work. The complainant claimed that if the teachers had informed themselves about the condition they would have been able to develop strategies to manage his behaviour, which in any case was not serious enough, in her view, to warrant suspension. The complainant arranged for a medical specialist to address the teachers but she alleges that only two were sufficiently interested to attend. The complainant was keen for her grandson to complete year 12 as he was academically gifted.

The complaint was conciliated on the basis that the student would enrol in year 10 in 2003 and that he would do a mix of academic and vocational subjects. A computer would be loaned to the student for use at his home until he leaves school. The educational authority agreed to provide funding for a mentor for the student (a recently retired teacher) and to provide the school with support on disciplinary issues. The respondent also provided a nominal amount ($350) to cover the complainant's legal costs.

Accommodation of student with muscular dystrophy

Parents complained on behalf of their son, who has muscular dystrophy, that t the school psychologist failed to provide appropriate advice or support to the class teacher in accommodating their son's disability. The complainants also alleged that the school had discriminated against their son by failing to provide reasonable accommodation.

The school responded that there had in fact been five areas of accommodation provided to the complainant's son. These were to develop and maintain contact with support agencies, develop an Individual Education Plan, regular meetings held with class teacher, the provision of an Education Assistant and professional development of staff in relation to the disability.

The complaint was resolved through conciliation. An agreement was signed without any admission of liability that the respondent would submit a report to the Minister of Education recommending the implementation of the Building Inclusive Schools initiative, and would include awareness of disability discrimination legislation in the job descriptions for school psychologists and pay the complainants $8,000 for general damages.

2002

Qualifying as a teacher

A woman with a number of disabilities who is studying to become a teacher complained that her university discriminted against her y by terminating her enrolment because she could not meet the requirement that she pass the Assistant Teacher Practicum. She had failed the ATP twice in 2001.

The complainant stated that the university was aware she required accommodation for her disability so that she could meet the requirements of the ATP. She had given the university an advice from CRS Australia that she required clear, unambiguous instruction, time to plan lessons and assistance with prioritising tasks. She also required her supervising teacher to have some understanding of the constraints imposed by her disabilities. There was a dispute between the parties as to whether accommodations needed had been s provided.

At a conciliation conference the parties agreed that the complainant would be offered another opportunity to complete her ATP and qualify as a teacher.

Bullying

A mother complained that her son who has autism had been bullied and harassed by staff and students at his High School. The respondent apologised to the complainant and agreed to conduct training for all staff at the school in relation to Autism. The parties set up a chain of people for the complainant to contact to resolve any ongoing concerns. The complainant was satisfied with this outcome to resolve her complaint.

Need for supervision

A woman complained that her son who has reflex anoxic seizures was being discriminated against by a lack of appropriate supervision. She stated that there was the potential for serious injury or worse if he collapses during a seizure and that she had advised the school that he is not to climb heights, such as play equipment or trees without supervision. She claimed that that the school advised her that the level of supervision requested for her son would be disruptive and unfair to other children attending the kindergarten.

The school responded that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure the safety of all children when they are climbing and that it must be recognised that there is an inherent risk in outdoor activities and that children can have accidents regardless of the level of supervision.

The complaint was resolved through conciliation. An agreement was signed without admission of liability that the respondent would arrange a meeting to develop an Individual Management Plan (IMP) for the complainant's son, to implement the IMP, review and re-enforce safety procedures for children climbing, ensure appropriate supervision when the complainant's son is climbing and review and amend communication procedures to ensure all relevant parties are informed about information contained in his IMP.

Inclusion of child with intellectual disability

A woman whose son has an intellectual disability complained that his school had made statements indicating that her son should not be in mainstream classes, that her son took up too much of the teacher's time and that there is not enough aide time available to cater for his needs. She also claims that the school had failed to act against children who bullied or teased her son.

The school responded that there was basis for concern regarding the complainant's son's ability to cope in mainstream class and that it has a responsibility to ensure parents are presented with all options for the education of their children. It also claims that it has a responsibility to ensure that parents are provided with accurate and fair feedback about the progress of their children at school.

The complaint was resolved through conciliation. An agreement was signed without admission of liability that the respondent will explore professional development appropriate to communication with parents of children with disabilities, will continue to work with her son in a positive and constructive manner to meet his educational needs and communicate with the complainant in a clear and timely manner about incidents concerning her son's welfare and safety. The complainant agreed to follow the school's procedures of making an appointment when wishing to meet with staff, attend regular meetings every 4 weeks with an advocate present so she can be informed about her son's educational progress and commit to treating staff at the school with civility and courtesy.

Diabetes at school

A mother complained that a school had failed to take reasonable measures to accommodate her daughter's diabetes. The complaint was resolved with an agreement for a diabetes educator to present information to staff at the school, a meeting to be held with the a Diabetes Nurse Educator to develop a management plan, and that every endeavour be made to ensure that the girl not be excluded from any program, activity or service provided by the school due to her diabetes.

Disciplinary procedures reviewed

A parent of an autistic child complained that the child was being discriminated against when his school used suspension as a means of disciplining the child for his behaviour. The complainant alleged suspension was inappropriate given the child's behaviours were a manifestation of his disability and that the child could not comprehend that suspension was a punishment designed to improve his behaviour. The complaint was settled when the school agreed to trial revised procedures based on an independent report and to consult with the parents on the implementation process.

Access to interpreter

Parents complained on behalf of their daughter who is profoundly deaf and attends the local primary school. They alleged the education department had failed to provide reasonable accommodation for the girl's disability because it had not employed an Auslan interpreter. The parents claimed their daughter's educational opportunities were being wasted as she could not participate in the curriculum at all without an interpreter. A conciliation process was conducted resulting in the department creating a new position for a full time Auslan interpreter.

2001

Blind student gets good results

A blind man in his final semester at university complained that one of his lecturers did not provide lecture notes and class material in an accessible format and that the exam was multiple choice which disadvantaged him. He also complained that the lecturer embarrassed him in class by stating that it would take a long time to present material because he had to read everything aloud for the complainant's benefit. The parties were able to agree on a plan of action to resolve the matter which included discussing the complainant's concerns, revising the format of the exam and providing the complainant with consideration in relation to his exam results. The complainant sat the exam successfully and advised that he is satisfied with the agreement and the result.

Access to course materials

A student with a vision impairment complained that course materials, while provided in electronic format, were not able to be accessed by the student's screen reader. This meant the student did not have access to course materials at the beginning of the course. At a conciliation conference the university acknowledged that it had not considered the issue of accessibility as fully as it could have, while the complainant acknowledged the technical constraints involved in making diverse sources of course material fully accessible. The complaint was settled with the university agreeing to make a number of improvements to its services to students with disabilities including the development of a Disability Action Plan to be finalised and lodged with the Commission by March 2002, the implementation of a Web Disability Action Plan, the purchase and testing of improved text conversion software and by expanding the role of its Disability Liaison Officer.

(A number of similar complaints led the Commission to conduct a forum on access to tertiary education course materials in early 2002.)

Responding to bullying

A mother complained that her son who has an autistic disorder had been discriminated against when he was suspended from school. She said her son was constantly bullied at school and reacted to bullying by being aggressive, and that the school had taken action only against her son and not the bullies. After a conciliation conference and further negotiations an agreement was reached for the boy to return to school with the support of an intervention plan, additional teacher aide time and individual education program, as well as for review of the school's suspension policy and strategies for dealing with bullying.

Accommodation for exams

A woman complained that her son had been discriminated against on the basis of dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder when her request for a reading/ writing assistant for an exam was refused. The complaint was settled when the education authority agreed to permit an assistant for the exam.

Education aide funding

The mother of a child with Downs Syndrome complained that her daughter had been discriminated against by a State educational authority providing education aide funding for only part of the school day. Her daughter has behavioural problems requiring supervision including running away. Following the Commission's inquiry into this matter, the education authority advised that it had increased the level of funding for support services for the child such that the mother would no longer need to fund part of the aide's time herself.

Graduation access

A man who uses a wheelchair complained that he had been discriminated against when his daughter's graduation was held in an inaccessible venue. There was no lift and staff had suggested he be loaded into the dumb waiter/goods lift instead. The complaint was settled when the school apologised and agreed that all future functions would be held in accessible venues.

2000

Autistic child at special school

The complainants alleged that a special school attended by their son had failed to accommodate his disabilities, which include intellectual disability, autism and epilepsy, when he was expelled after serious behavioural problems. The complaint was resolved when the school undertook a series of initiatives including procedures to be set in place to ensure a greater level of consultation between teachers and parents, development of more specific individual education plans for each child to accommodate the different levels of disability among the students, more appropriate accommodation to be made for children with multiple disabilities such this child, and attendance for all teaching staff at a two-day staff training course in autism.

Refusal of admission

The parents of a boy with a psychiatric condition complained that he had been discriminated against when he was refused admission to a secondary college after the principal formed the view that he was unsuitable for mainstream schooling. After a conciliation conference the college apologised and agreed to pay $5,000 compensation.

School enrolment secured

A mother complained that after the family moved to a rural centre, she had been unsuccessfully seeking for two months to have her son, who has a number of disabilities including autism and an intellectual disability, enrolled in a local school. Within two days of the Commission contacting the student services team of the relevant education authority, an enrolment in a special education class within a local school had been secured on a trial basis, and the complaint was withdrawn when the trial was successful to the satisfaction of all parties.

1999

Accommodation of vision impairment

A young man who has a vision impairment complained that despite advising the educational institution of his disability at enrolment and being given assurances that his disability would be accommodated, sufficient assistance was not provided to enable him to undertake his studies. The complainant claimed he was required to answer questions written on the blackboard in class and during weekly examinations even though he had previously advised the teacher that he could not read from the board. The complainant stated that his teacher made comments about his abilities in front of other students. The complainant also claimed that his request for an oral examination was rejected. The complainant discontinued his enrolment two weeks after commencement.

The respondent denied the complainant had requested accommodation for his disability and claimed that the complainant had not advised his teacher that he could not do the in-class examinations.

The matter was resolved by conciliation with the respondent agreeing to provide the complainant with an apology and $5,000 in compensation. The respondent institution also agreed to implement disability awareness training for staff and review procedures for the enrolment of people with disabilities.

1998

Access to University transport

A university student who uses a wheelchair complained that the shuttle bus provided by the university as a safety service for staff and students after dark was not accessible to him. The university noted that it had examined options of fitting lifts and acquiring larger accessible buses, but had found additional costs of 25% and 50% respectively prohibitive.  The matter was settled when the university agreed

  • to provide taxi vouchers to the complainant and other students physically unable to access the shuttle bus, pending other solutions to accessibility of the shuttle service, and publicise availability of this service
  • to upgrade the shuttle service to a standard consistent with the Commission's Advisory Note on public transport, and any subsequent standards on public transport, when monitoring indicated sufficient demand to render this viable.

1997

Medical treatment at school negotiated

A parent of a child with a disability requiring treatment and medication during school hours complained that a public school would not administer treatments unless she signed an indemnity which she refused to do. The matter was settled without admission of liability after the State education department advised that it had successfully concluded an agreement with relevant staff representatives such that indemnities were no longer required.

Interpreting in university courses

A deaf student was provided with access to an Auslan interpreter for all university lectures and tutorials during the student's four year course.

School students with hearing disabilities

A state-wide support group for parents and their families, to promote the rights of all children with hearing disabilities lodged six representative complaints on behalf of all students with hearing disabilities in a state public education system. The complaints generally alleged that deficiencies in the provision of education services to students with hearing disabilities, constitute discrimination on the grounds of disability because

  • the Department did not provide access to adequate numbers of qualified teachers of the Deaf for students with hearing disabilities
  • there was a lack of access to suitably qualified interpreters for sign-dependent students
  • resources and personnel funding for students with hearing disabilities who are integrated, was provided on an ad hoc basis
  • the Department did not provide the option of a special segregated high school for sign-dependent students with hearing disabilities
  • the approach of the Department had been one of lack of support for the promotion and understanding by hearing students, of students with hearing disabilities
  • the Department did not provide bilingual and bicultural programs for students with hearing disabilities.

This complaint was resolved through two conciliation meetings in which it was agreed that

  • there will be biannual meetings between the parties, in which issues of concern can be discussed
  • members of the support group and the Department will form a working party which will meet on a regular basis to discuss issues concerning the training and competency of teacher aides and teachers of the Deaf, the reciprocal nature of integration, the effectiveness of the Department's current process for dealing with parent grievances and the use of data collection to measure the effectiveness of programs for students with hearing disabilities
  • the support group will advise the Department of individual concerns of parents, will monitor how the issues are dealt with at the local level, and provide feedback to the Department
  • the support group will contact the state Board of Studies regarding introduction of Auslan as a School Certificate and Higher School Certificate subject and refer this matter to the joint working party.

1996

Physical access to TAFE classes

A man with a disability complained regarding physical accessibility of classes at his local TAFE college. The matter was settled when the TAFE advised they would schedule classes for ground floor rooms or lift accessible buildings wherever possible and wherever a need was identified (1996).

1994

Access to interpreters for TAFE student

A TAFE student with a hearing impairment received interpreter assistance for only four of his seven hours of face to face teaching, with the result that he was forced to withdraw from the course. In settlement of his complaint, the TAFE college provided a written apology and agreed that within six months it would develop a policy to ensure full participation by deaf students (1994).

1993

Participation in school camp

A secondary student with an intellectual disability was refused permission to attend some days of a school camp because there was no funding for an integration aide to assist him on those days. The complaint was resolved on the basis that the school would permit attendance for the whole period using the assistance of a volunteer, and would provide an integration aide for the whole period of the next year's camp (1993).