Q I am the chair of governors of a secondary comprehensive. Recently, our head excluded a child permanently because of his disruptive behaviour. The parent is appealing against that decision and the appeal will shortly come before the governors. One governor has raised a question about whether the fact that the boy has a statement of special educational need, because he is autistic, means that we have to think differently about the exclusion and the appeal. Is this the case?
A The procedures for exclusions and appeals are contained within the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998 and in guidance published by the Department for Education and Skills. However, if the child in question is disabled within the meaning of Part 1 of the Disability Discrimination Act, the provisions of Part 4 of the act, concerning discrimination against disabled students in education, will also apply.
Broadly, this means the school should give particular consideration as to whether the fact that the boy in question has autism means the school is treating him unfairly in some way.
It is not always easy to see how this might arise, particularly given that his behaviour may have given legitimate cause for concern.
The Disability Rights Commission's helpful Code of Practice for Schools, which deals with disability discrimination, gives examples of what might constitute discrimination in the area of exclusions.
David Ruebain is a partner specialising in education and disability discrimination at the law firm Levenes. www.levenes.co.uk