By bobb |


Schools have paid compensation to students suspended for misbehaviour after litigious parents took discrimination complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The AHRC fielded 111 complaints about schools breaching the Disability Discrimination Act last year, compared to 79 in 2022.

Several schools paid tens of thousands of dollars to students diagnosed with autism or ADHD who had been suspended or ­expelled for their behaviour.

One religious school paid $30,000 and apologised to a mother who alleged it did not take “reasonable steps’’ to help her son transition to high school.

The mother claimed the school failed to provide “reasonable ­adjustments’’ for her son’s learning, as he had ADHD and was on the autism spectrum. “She claimed this led to an escalation in behaviour by her son and alleged the school responded in a punitive way by suspending him on multiple occasions rather than appropriately accommodating his disability,’’ the AHRC says in a newly published summary of the case from 2022.

“The complainant also alleged the school treated her less favourably as a parent of a student with disability by not addressing her concerns and making her feel guilt and shame by discussing concerns raised by other parents about her son.’’

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A private school paid $25,000 to the mother of a six-year-old boy with autism, ADHD and developmental delay, who had been suspended. The mother alleged that the school had banned her son from the first week of kindergarten “because he may scare other children’’, and then limited his classroom attendance to three hours a day.

“The complainant also alleged that the school did not accommodate her son’s disability in the classroom, did not make allowances for her son’s disability when applying disciplinary policy and did not develop an individual plan for her son,’’ the AHRC case summary states.

“The (child) was ultimately suspended and the complainant removed him from the school.’’

The school denied unlawful discrimination but agreed to pay the mother $25,000, in return for her taking down “negative comment’’ she posted on social media.

A private high school paid $50,000 in compensation to a 15-year-old student with down syndrome, anxiety, a speech disorder, scoliosis, and sensory processing difficulties in 2019.

The school expelled the girl because of her “spitting behaviour’’, the AHRC summary states.

The girl’s psychologist had ­explained that “her disability manifested as a habit of spitting when frustrated, embarrassed or annoyed’’.

The girl complained to the AHRC that the school had failed to provide reasonable adjustments and that “her enrolment was ended after a number of occasions when she spat on teachers and students’’.

“The school confirmed it ended the complainant’s enrolment because of her spitting behaviour, which was considered to be deliberate and not a manifestation of her disability,’’ the AHRC states.

“The school said the behaviour was causing ongoing distress to teachers and other students.

A state education department paid $40,000 to a mother who alleged a principal had assaulted her 10-year-old son, who had anxiety and “processing speed difficulties’’. “The complainant alleged the school discriminated against her son on the ground of disability including by failing to develop a behaviour support plan,’’ the AHRC summary states.


Editorial: this suggests a major improvement in how such cases are treated. In the past (with previous HR Commissioners), there was no point in making a complaint as there was very little chance or success. It seems now that some success is possible with non-government schools. But there is still a very long way to go.