...managing challenging behaviours
A tribunal has ruled that a school in Washington, Sunderland, unfairly discriminated against a pupil for excluding him because of behaviour that arose as a consequence of his disability.
Reviewing the details of the case, Partner and education law specialist Angela Jackman explains how this story highlights the precarious nature of exclusion cases involving children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Discrimination in Washington
The case of a 16-year-old pupil being permanently excluded in Washington has highlighted the requirements upon schools.
Luke Blacklock, the student in question, has a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which was the root of the behaviour that caused disciplinary action to be taken by his school.
Luke was initially given a detention when he attempted to leave a school building last year, however while serving the detention he became agitated and began to self-harm. He was restrained and given a fixed-term exclusion.
After returning to school from his fixed-term exclusion, Luke was given a permanent exclusion. The school contended this was due to his inability to settle back into the school and alleged threatening and aggressive behaviour towards senior staff.
Unhappy with the decision to permanently exclude her child, Luke’s mother began an appeals process and took her case to the First-tier tribunal.
After reviewing the details of the case, a tribunal judge ruled that Luke’s school had unfairly discriminated against him, as the symptoms of his ADHD were not correctly managed. The tribunal ruled that Luke’s initial exclusion, which it could be argued resulted in his final permanent exclusion, arose as a consequence of his ADHD.
It was argued by the tribunal that different strategies should have been used to calm down the situation that caused Luke’s initial exclusion, as his ADHD meant that he finds it difficult to sit still for the necessary time to complete detentions.
Despite the ruling of the tribunal that the school could have managed the situation better and must apologise to Luke and his parents, a spokesperson defended their actions. The school contended that it followed its procedures and acted in the best interest of all parties involved. However, the tribunal also ordered the school to review its policies relating to children with disabilities.
Luke has since enrolled in a nearby academy and is settling in well to his new surroundings.
“This case highlights that schools must not automatically use disciplinary measures to manage children’s special educational needs and disabilities.
“It is necessary for schools to make adequate reasonable adjustments for children who have disabilities and, if necessary, to review their policies for doing so in order to comply with the law.
“Whilst the school in question felt it had taken alternative steps, they were considered to be unsatisfactory by the tribunal.
“Ultimately, the imposition of the detention did not take account of the young person’s disability and it was an unreasonable measure in light of this.”
Written by Angela Jackman
For more information on education law and the services offered by Simpson Millar, please call
0808 129 3304