Exclusion ruling sends ‘clear signal’ to schools


A high court ruling has confirmed that schools must make reasonable adjustments for pupils with behavioural problems that are caused by their impairments.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) welcomed the ruling, which it said sent a “clear signal” to schools to provide more support for children with special educational needs (SEN).
The case concerned a nine-year-old boy who was excluded from his classroom because of disruptive behaviour linked to his ADHD.
While being removed from class he scratched his teacher’s arm, and was excluded from school.
The school later admitted this was an inappropriate way to work with a child with ADHD, but argued that his behaviour had amounted to physical abuse and so was not covered by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).
But the judge, Mr Justice Jones, upheld a ruling by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal that the school should have made reasonable adjustments to prevent the incident escalating.
A specialist team had been available to offer training to teachers but had not been used.
Although the judge ruled that the boy’s condition was protected under the DDA, he did find that scratching amounted to a tendency towards physical abuse, so the incident itself was exempt from the act.
The EHRC said the ruling highlighted a need to clarify how far disabled people with conditions that can cause behaviour that might be considered a “tendency towards physical abuse” can enjoy full protection from the DDA.
John Wadham, legal group director for the EHRC, which part-funded the boy’s case, said: “This judgement sends a clear signal to schools that they must provide an appropriate teaching environment with the right support for children with SEN and to not wait until an incident has taken place before doing so.”
Wadham said the rate of exclusion of children with SEN was “unacceptably high”, and the ruling would help provide “clarity” for teachers.
But he said the EHRC would use the equality bill to clarify which aspects of an impairment are excluded from protection under discrimination law. The bill has reached its report stage in the Commons.
27 July 2009


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