Maris Beck, May 1, 2012
A TEENAGER is suing the Education Department in Victoria because he cannot read, write or count properly, saying he was silenced with medication and teachers blamed his inability to learn on eating doughnuts.
Beau Abela, now 18, claims he was victimised and discriminated against because of his complex learning disability.
Barrister David Hancock told the Federal Court in Melbourne that his client, Beau, did not have the literacy or numeracy skills to get a job. “Instead he sits at home wondering what to do with his life.”
Mr Hancock said that the department had blamed Beau, his family, “even his diet” and had not provided enough help. Mr Hancock contrasted reports from prep and early school years describing Beau as happy, responsible and friendly with later reports of aggression and disengagement. “The longer Beau has been at school, the more his intellectual functioning has actually declined.”
He told the court, presided over by Justice Richard Tracey, that Beau had passed through the system even though he had failed to meet the required academic levels, and despite his father’s repeated concerns.
Mr Hancock said instead of giving Beau extra academic help, the system helped him take medication for attention deficit disorder, which was of questionable diagnosis. “This was relatively cheap … and did not require extra effort. All Beau received was meetings and assessments which gave a semblance of activity.”
Justin Bourke, SC, representing the department, argued the Discrimination Act did not demand extensive levels of educational resources to be devoted. Nevertheless, he said, Beau's curriculum had been regularly modified and adjusted to meet his needs. He said Beau had performed as could be expected from someone of his IQ, which was 62, and had not received enough help doing homework. He had been destabilised by his mother leaving when he was young and threatening to harm him and his sister, for which she was served with a restraining order.
“We are not blaming the father, we are not blaming the family, but the child had come from a broken home and was clearly emotionally disturbed … the teachers did a fantastic job.”
He said Beau often ate sugary, fatty foods, such as doughnuts, and this was only one example of a lack of home support. “Teachers were really worried that Beau Abela was not going to school with a wholesome meal.”
The hearing continues.