A CHILD with Asperger’s syndrome could be forced out of a Wantirna Catholic school by the actions of some parents.
Devout Catholic parents Emily and Mark Jones just wanted to give their son Ed a Catholic education, but are considering removing him from St Luke’s Primary School after what they say has been a campaign of intolerance from some school parents and students.
They will urgently meet with the school this week, but in the meantime are meeting principals of two other schools at which they are considering enrolling him.
Mrs Jones said classmates had constantly taunted the nine-year-old over his condition, while some of the parents had pressured school administrators to come down hard on the child over his “bad behaviour”.
In one case, information on Asperger’s in a school newsletter led one parent to demand a retraction and an apology for being made to feel guilty.
The Joneses say they have been constant targets of snide remarks and dirty looks. Parents at the school have even approached a local MP about the grade 3 student.
Although some parents refuse to accept that Ed belongs in a mainstream school, principal Louise Mackay has insisted that he does.
“We would be disappointed if (Ed) left the school as we believe a mainstream education is beneficial to his learning requirements and general progress,” Mrs Mackay said in a statement.
She said the school encouraged all members of the community to be supportive of one another.
Mrs Jones said Ed recently gave a classroom presentation on his neurological condition and other health problems in a bid to win some understanding.
But some classmates treated it as a joke.
“They have called him a retard, spastic, crooked feet, deaf, blind, dumb,” Mrs Jones said.
“Ninety per cent were very understanding but the other 10 per cent have used it as ammunition against him.”
In another hurtful instance, Ed, who taught himself how to play the guitar, performed for his classmates and was mortified when two laughed at him.
“They (the parents) are meant to be Christians,” Mrs Jones said. “There is no tolerance; no understanding.”
Mrs Jones was particularly upset that all the progress they made with Ed at home at night and on the weekend was undone by other children at school.
His parents acknowledge Ed has lashed out at other children, after being goaded and taunted to react.
The Joneses have decided to speak out in a bid to foster understanding about autism spectrum disorders, estimated to affect one in 100 Australian children.
Autism Victoria CEO Murray Dawson-Smith said the Joneses’ experience was not uncommon.
“While the State Government has tried to make schools inclusive of all students, the reality is that it depends on how receptive the individual school community is,” Mr Dawson-Smith said.
He called for a whole-of-school approach to autism spectrum disorders that included educating teachers, parents and children on how to embrace instead of ridicule differences.
He said children with autism spectrum disorders were often a target by bullies because of the different behaviours they exhibited.