School governors told to apologise

A special educational needs and disability tribunal has upheld two allegations that a south Norfolk primary school unlawfully discriminated against a girl who suffers from autism.

A special educational needs and disability tribunal has upheld two allegations that a south Norfolk primary school unlawfully discriminated against a girl who suffers from autism.

The complaints were made by single-parent Mark Dover, of Deopham, whose nine-year-old daughter Leonie is a pupil at Morley Church of England Primary School. She has been diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder, as well as mild ataxia and hydrocephalus, and has behavioural difficulties due to her condition.

On September 20 last year Leonie was excluded from the school for a fixed term of 15 days following an incident which included punching and kicking adults supervising her. The tribunal found the exclusion was for a reason relating to her disability and could not be justified.

After returning to school, Leonie's behaviour became more disruptive and on November 7 she spat into the face of a teacher, then barricaded herself in the school library and threw books on the floor. The head teacher, Peter Clough described her behaviour as “uncontrollable” and she was permanently excluded.


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However, the tribunal found there was “clear evidence that Mr Clough had not - despite his protestations to the contrary- accepted that Leonie's behaviour had flowed from her autistic spectrum disorder and that she was not responsible for her behaviour”, and upheld the complaint.

The school's governing body has been ordered to apologise in writing to Leonie and Mr Dover for the discrimination - the girl having been reinstated in January this year. Two further allegations were unproven.

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Stuart Shortman, chairman of governors said: “The school did have health and safety concerns about a pupil with complex special needs. We are pleased that, following extra resources provided by Norfolk County Council, it was possible to continue to educate her at the school.”

Mr Dover welcomed the tribunal's findings. And he is also delighted to have won a hard-fought campaign to have his daughter educated at a special school just 20 minutes from home instead of accepting a placement at Cromer which meant 3hrs travelling - which Leonie hates.

He said: “Leonie's social workers were on my side in this, and you have got to fight these things. It's been a year of hell, I lost my job and I am a single parent with two children. Schools are guilty of discrimination and it needs to be exposed to help other parents of special needs children in main stream schools. It is good to fight injustice and change attitudes.”

County council spokesman, Kate Gooding said: “We have been working with Leonie and her family to try to find a suitable school place for Leonie. We did name St Andrew's special school as a school for her, as we felt this would cater for her needs. However, following further discussion with Leonie's family we are pleased to have been able to reach an agreement and Leonie will now be taught at Fred Nicholson School. We wish her all the best for her future schooling.”

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