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Thursday, 18 August 2016

Abuse of students with disability in Australian schools

Family Advocacy has released the following statement in light of the 7.30 report (on ABC TV, Tuesday 16 August 2016) on abuse of children with disabilities in NSW schools:

NSW Government failing to deal with abuse of children with disabilities
The NSW Government received 64 complaints of abuse from the families of students with disabilities over the 21 month period from 6/01/2014 to 26/10/2015, but only one complaint resulted in withdrawal of employment, and only thirteen resulted in any disciplinary action being taken at all.

The complaints, accessed through Freedom Of Information, only include those instances deemed reportable conduct, and thus are likely to be a small portion of alleged abuse overall.

Family Advocacy Executive Officer, Cecile Sullivan Elder, stated that:

We believe children with disability are being abused in our schools, in light of incidents highlighted by the ABC 7.30 report last night and complaints from around Australia. The fact that all but one teacher in NSW in over sixty complaints are still teaching strongly suggests a failure of the Department of Education to prioritise the vulnerable children who are in their care. This inaction indicates a possible culture within the NSW education system of accepting or downplaying the occurrence of abuse and neglect when it comes to children with disability.

She continued:

This situation needs to be thoroughly investigated by the NSW Government. The complaints shown in the FOI are likely to be the tip of the iceberg of abuse of children with disability in schools. This comes from devaluing of children with disability, where low expectations and exclusion in special schools and units is the norm.

This revelation comes in the wake of the ABC 7.30 report last night, which highlighted a number of instances of alleged serious abuse in NSW schools. A number of Australian organisations also recently submitted 55 cases of human rights violations against children with disability in schools to the United Nations. Of these cases, the organisations state:

Overwhelmingly, children’s legal guardians were not satisfied with the results of their complaints. Of note, a theme emerged that internal inquiries conducted by Departments of Education protected teachers and schools (See ).

School is not always a safe place for students with disability – this has to change
Sally Robinson, The Conversation, 28 July 2016
The United Nations has been asked to investigate dozens of incidents in which children with disabilities were allegedly assaulted, locked in dark rooms and restrained in Australian schools ...

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