boy with a book looking shocked

Can my local public school say they cannot accommodate my child’s needs and decline enrolment?

No. The rights of children with disability to attend their local public school is protected by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Education 2005, which reflects Australia’s international law obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (see Article 24).

There are many examples in the Western Australian public school system where students with disability, including some with very high needs, who have been successfully included in their local school. 

The State Education Act does however provide the Minister for Education an option to request a review in particular circumstances, but this position is rarely adopted.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, a school is not permitted to discriminate on the grounds of disability:

  • at the point of enrolment
  • setting conditions on which it is prepared to admit a student (eg. by requiring higher fees or accepting payment of the cost of an education assistant)
  • limiting a student’s access to activities provided for students by the school (eg. excursions, sports or extra-curricular activities)
  • excluding a student from all or part of the school program
  • suggesting less than full time enrolment.

Can my local school say they don’t ‘have to’ make the site accessible (including toilets) for my child with mobility issues? 

Can they say they can’t afford the required modifications or that it is too onerous to provide this?

No.  Under current building regulations and codes all schools (and public buildings) must be accessible.  Disability Discrimination Act 1992 makes an exception where the adjustment will cause “unjustifiable hardship”, it is up to the school or other relevant educational authority to prove this. 

Generally large educational authorities and schools will find it difficult to prove “unjustifiable hardship” even when making adjustments for a student with disability involves substantial costs. 

Local public schools can seek additional support for assistive technology resources (the use of information technology and programs to support learning) from the School of Special Educational Needs: Disability.

Is the school allowed to tell me that my child can just go to school two days a week or can’t attend excursions or camps? 

No. All students have the right to full time education. All schools in Australia are funded on the basis that they abide by all laws in relation to schooling and disability discrimination legislation. When planning excursions schools are required to make adjustments that will enable students with disability to attend and participate on the same basis as all other students in the school.

These decisions should be made in partnership with you as parents/carers, and the teachers who are organising the excursions. Your child’s teacher should discuss with you accessibility, safety, enjoyment and participation of your child in excursions.

boy with a book looking shocked