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Education

Equal opportunity law applies to schools, and education and training institutions. It covers entry to courses, access to facilities and benefits, and expulsion.

School inflexible to student's special needs

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Scott has Asbergers Syndrome, and his mother, Kym, wanted to enrol him at a new school. She spoke to the special education co-ordinator, who, Kym alleged, said the school's programme was inflexible and might not meet Scott's needs.

Kym complained to the Commission, believing that her son was refused enrolment because of his Asbergers Syndrome and this amounted to disability discrimination.

Outcome: 
The school's principal and Kym attended a conciliation conference. The complaint was settled by the school agreeing to apologise for misunderstandings that arose from unclear communication, and to re-commence Scott's enrolment process. The school also agreed to pay Kym and Scott $1,000 for injury to feelings.

Man with Asperger's told he can't study in course

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Julian applied for a place on a counselling course being run by a private college. However, he was told by the college director that because Julian had Asperger's Syndrome he would not be suitable for the course. The director added that, 'People with Asperger's do not have the emotional capacity to be counsellors: it is like a blind person trying to be a policeman'.

Outcome: 
The director apologised for any offense or potential disadvantage given to Julian, and he directed the college's HR manager to arrange professional development on the topic for relevant staff. Julian accepted this as a satisfactory outcome, and was happy for the matter to be closed.

Young woman at trade school not given the same opportunity

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Kirsty was studying towards a certificate in the construction trades. However, her Placement Officer, Gerald, did not help her find either employment or placement avenues in welding, although such support was provided to male students.  Gerald offered to give his mobile number to the male students, advising he would continue to look for employment for them, and would call them if "something came up".  However, Gerald walked away without asking for Kirsty's phone number.

She made a complaint to the Commission of discrimination on the ground of sex.

Outcome: 
No conciliation conference was held, and time was spent instead negotiating with the parties. The complaint was eventually settled, with Gerald offering Kirsty a private apology.

School inconsistent about dress code policies

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Lucetta lodged a complaint on behalf of her daughter Rihanna, who attended a suburban school.  Lucetta alleged that Rihanna was asked repeatedly by teachers to remove her necklace, despite other students wearing jewellery within view.  She alleged that this inconsistent application of uniform policy amounted to discrimination on the ground of race.

Lucetta subsequently removed her daughter from the school.

Outcome: 
At conciliation, Lucetta requested $600 for loss of income (monies paid to the school as a joining fee), and a letter of regret from the school. The matter was settled on this basis.

Girl with Tourette's syndrome felt no support from School

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Patricia's daughter, Erin, has Tourette Syndrome and Patricia felt the regional high school at which she was enrolled was not assisting her.  She said that Erin was being abused by other students in her class and she withdrew her from the school.

Patricia made a complaint of impairment discrimination to the Commission, and alleged that the school failed to:

Outcome: 
At conciliation, the school agreed to provide an apology to Erin and her parents, to seek information on low-incidence medical conditions through the Special Education Resource Unit when these medical conditions are reported by parents in the future, as well as seek information on the learning and social and emotional wellbeing of the learner from the Student Support and Disability Coordinator, to allow grievances by students to be made both orally and in writing, to advertise the services provided by Special Education Resource Unit in the next edition of "Xpress" and to offer a professional development session to staff on Tourette Syndrome and related disorders and the educational impact of these conditions.

Limited support for intellectually impaired boy at school

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Henry alleged that his son, Dash, was subjected to discrimination on the ground of impairment when the school Dash attended failed to provide support required because of his intellectual impairment.  Henry said the school told them that Dash did not meet the criteria, as set out in the school policy, for the support sought.  However, Henry insisted that Dash was deemed to be at a level of support requiring speech pathology, some occupational therapy and some in-class support.

Outcome: 
At conciliation, the school agreed that they would apologise for any distress suffered by Dash and his family as a result of some of Dash's experiences at the school, to review the processes relating to enrolment procedures for students with special needs and to undertake to provide feedback to Henry in relation to the above review within three months.

Mature-age student has an epileptic seizure and is asked to leave

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Shortly before a lecture, Malcolm, a student at a metropolitan higher education facility, suffered an epileptic seizure.  In a post-seizure confusion state, he partly removed his clothes.  Thereafter, staff members pressured him to withdraw from the course, telling him that, "the only option is an internet course".

Outcome: 
At conciliation, the organisation offered to review its policies relating to grievance complaints from students, and to review the information provided to students on enrolment.

Special needs students disadvantaged

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Lauren has autism.  Her mother, Christine, had been trying to enrol her at a school for over twelve months.  As recommended by the school, Christine arranged funding for 1:1 support to allow Lauren to attend an after-hours care program for two afternoons a week.  However, then the school advised that Lauren would not be able to attend out of hours care until "all staff were fully trained".  Christine said that this decision stressed and confused her.

Outcome: 
Following conciliation, a written apology was given to Christine, and it was agreed that the school would review its processes and policies for enrolment of special needs children.

Burqa law would fuel fear, suspicion

I would like to put to bed some misleading comments implying that equal opportunity legislation is somehow putting the public at risk, by allowing people to cover their faces with certain apparel.

This past week, there have been calls for a new law allowing banks and government offices to require customers to show their faces or be refused entry, where there is a security issue.  I worry that this might simply fuel fear and suspicion against people who look different.

Human rights of international students

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Australia and New Zealand Race Relations Roundtable 2009

The rights of international students are a significant human rights concern for national, state and territory human rights commissions in Australia and New Zealand.

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