Family lose legal battle with Qld government over school ‘jail’

A family who claim their disabled child was discriminated against because he was restrained in a Queensland school have lost their appeal in court.

Steve Zemek

A disabled boy who sued the Queensland government because he was suspended and tied up at school due to his behaviour problems has lost his bitter legal feud with the state after having his appeal dismissed.

Beau Connor’s parents Julie and Peter alleged that their son was discriminated against because of his disability and suffered “violence” at the hands of teachers and staff at a Hervey Bay school between 2011 and 2015.

In 2019 they lost a Federal Court case against the State of Queensland and on Thursday had their appeal dismissed.

In a crowd-funding plea which was posted online, the family said “this is not about money, I do not care about money” but they wanted to stop others from being subject to similar treatment.

“I care about what damage this does to people, kids, elderly, and how the system is set up and designed to stop us,” Mr Connor wrote online.


Beau Connor was discriminated against by a Hervey Bay school because of his disability when he was suspended and restrained because of his violent behaviour, according to his family. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

Justices John Reeves, Melissa Perry and John Snaden said that the family, who was self-represented by Beau’s father in court, had not established any of the 24 grounds on which they appealed.

Mr Connor made several claims which the three judges described as “extreme”, including that the court had accepted altered documents and false testimony and that Beau’s treatment breached international civil rights.

“It suffices to note that they charge the respondent (Education Queensland) with very serious misconduct and are, in each case, wholly without foundation,” the Justices said.

Beau attended Kawungan State School in Hervey Bay, three-and-a-half hours north of Brisbane, where the family claims he was discriminated against because of his disabilities.

He suffered from Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD, which his family said resulted in the school suspending him several times over a four-and-a-half year period.

It also said that on 25 occasions he was tied up, secluded or isolated from his classmates.

Mr Connor argued that Beau was “restrained” while in a “jail cell” inside the school.

“The state has a greater responsibility within their institutions to follow the law, and their international agreements,” Mr Connor argued.

 AAP Image/Glenn Hunt.

Peter Connor, father of Beau Connor, arriving at the Federal Court. Picture: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt.Source:AAP

In his 2019 judgment, Justice Darryl Rangiah found that Beau was restrained because he had assaulted other students and staff.

“His Honour concluded that none of the treatment to which Beau had been subjected had been visited upon him by reason of his disabilities,” Thursday’s judgment said.

“Rather, his Honour concluded that, on each occasion, Beau had been treated in the way that he was in order to address disruptive or violent behaviour on his part.”

During a two-day hearing last year, Mr Connor had argued that Justice Rangiah had accepted “false testimony” and that the State of Queensland was in contempt of court because it had lied and altered documents.

“The extreme nature of the allegations that are made and the wholesale absence of any proper basis for making them are likely attributable to an exuberance that occasionally attends self-representation,” Justices Reeves, Perry and Snaden said.

The Court of Appeal affirmed Justice Rangiah’s view that Beau would not have been treated any differently if he did not have a disability.

“His Honour found – as he was entitled to on the strength of the evidence before him – that the school would not have treated a student who did not possess the same disabilities as Beau any differently had he or she engaged in behaviour similar to that in which Beau engaged,” the justices said.

The family was also ordered to pay the government’s costs.