Botanic Ridge mum accuses Christian schools of trying to reject her autistic daughter

A BOTANIC Ridge mum says two independent Christian schools in Casey tried to reject her daughter because she has autism.

Michelle Brown said she was shocked at the treatment of her five-year-old daughter and it was only after inquiries by the Berwick Leader that one of the schools agreed to accept her back next year.

Ms Brown said her daughter started at the first school in 2013, before her diagnosis, but was told last year she could no longer attend due to a lack of disability funding.

After her family appealed to disability advocate Julie Phillips, she was taken back, but in August the school ruled it would not be able to take her this year.

Ms Brown then enrolled her daughter at another southeastern Christian school, only to be told in November her daughter had not made enough academic progress and that it had looked into a special school on her behalf because she said it was “refusing to continue her enrolment”.

But after Leader contacted the school, the principal agreed to allow Ms Brown’s daughter to continue there on a “trial basis” next year.

“She has a massive friend base, the kids love her and the teachers love her,” Ms Brown said.

“Not once have I ever put pressure on them to make her into an A-grade student.”

Ms Phillips, the manager for Disability Discrimination Legal Service, said schools discriminating against students with disabilities, particularly autism, was “very common”.

Students with a disability were better off in mainstream schools, Ms Phillips said, and schools had a responsibility to cater for children with disabilities.

But the principal of the school that will continue to enrol Ms Brown’s daughter next year said the school had the child’s best interests in mind when it suggested she go elsewhere.

He said the school had 70 children with special needs but Ms Brown’s daughter would receive more help in a special school or the public system because the amount of funding private schools received for special needs children was “not even close” to what state schools received.

“We managed the child this year but it’s been our recommendation the child go to Officer Special School next year,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we have spoken to the family and said ‘If you really want your child to stay, we will keep working with her’.”

The principal of the first school said: “We always aim to constructively interact with parents to ensure that the best interests of students are looked after.

“Sometimes parents question our assessment and, in some cases, they might decide to enrol their child elsewhere. We respect their right to do this.

“Our first priority always is the welfare of all students, including those with disabilities.

“For privacy reasons, we will not go into details about this specific case, except to say that we believed that we were able to appropriately accommodate the student.

“We believe that what we offered best met her educational needs, based on the professional assessment of our staff and advice from external experts.”

An Education Department spokesman said all government and non-government schools had access to funding to support students with disabilities, and the law required students with a disability have the same access to education as others.