What are the legal requirements for schools to provide inclusive education?
According to Student Rights NZ1 “Schools can’t refuse to enrol disabled students or provide them with less favourable conditions or benefits than other students. However, schools are only obliged to make reasonable attempts to accommodate students.”
What are ‘reasonable’ accommodations?
According to the Human Rights Commission2 ‘reasonable accommodation’ means:
An adjustment made in a system and based on a proven need to accommodate an individual with a disability which encompasses:
- necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments
- not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden
- where needed in a particular case
- to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
What to do if your school does not follow these legal requirements?
The first thing to do is to discuss the issue with your child’s teacher. It can be a little daunting to do this, and it’s important to approach it with the view that you and your child’s teacher both want the child to succeed.
The Ministry of Education website for parents3 has information sheets in a variety of languages called ‘Resolving problems about your child’s learning support’ which has clear steps a parent can take if they feel that the school is not supporting their child in accessing the education they have a right to.
Ultimately your child has a right to an education with supports that enable them to access the same information and resources as other children of similar age and ability. If your school is unwilling to accommodate your child in a way that you believe is reasonable, then you have a right to make a complaint about that school firstly through the school’s complaints procedure, and then if that is unsatisfactory, with the Ministry of Education or Disability Rights Commission.
The reality a lot of parents face is that if a school is resistant to accommodating a student with additional needs, it can be more damaging to the family and the child to fight for accommodation than to simply leave and seek schooling elsewhere, such as through correspondence or homeschooling. This unfortunately means a lot of schools get away with breaking the law and disabled children get pushed out of mainstream education4.