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IHC takes complaint to Human Rights Commission

Embargoed until 31 July 2008

IHC takes discrimination complaint to Human Rights Commission

IHC has lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission against government policies and practices that prevent disabled students participating fully at their local school.

The complaint targets government action that puts up barriers to learning for students with disabilities.

It has the support of other national disability organisations that IHC will look to joining as co-complainants should litigation become necessary.

IHC's Director of Advocacy Trish Grant says that, in theory, legislation and wider government policy supports a child's right to attend their local school, but the reality is that many experience significant difficulty accessing the support necessary to participate in school life alongside their peers.

"We know that many schools acknowledge their response to disabled students is limited by resourcing and other constraints. It is clear that government policy does not allow all schools to do their best by disabled students.

"The Ministry of Education has indicated to us that schools and boards of trustees are ultimately responsible for the problems, not government, and that government will defend much of the complaint on this basis. Such an approach will not solve this problem.

"IHC has received evidence in the form of affidavits from parents, schools, academics and professionals working in the education sector that support the claim that government policy prevents disabled students accessing the curriculum at their local school.

These policies and the accompanying practices are discriminatory", says Trish.

"One of the biggest problems schools face is the lack of resources. Many schools have no choice but to limit attendance whenever support is unavailable. Parents are often asked to contribute financially to teacher aide hours because of a funding shortfall, the only other option being that their son or daughter is sent home."

The aim of the complaint is to bring an end to the discrimination through remedies available under human rights legislation.

"The Education Act states that any child who has special education needs can enrol and receive education at their local state school. However, given the history and entrenched nature of the problem, IHC sees the complaint to the Human Rights Commission as the only avenue left.

"We can't wait any longer for children to begin receiving the kind of education they are entitled to at their local school," Ms Grant said.


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