Students with disability have a right to fair treatment.
If you think a student with disability is being treated unfairly, you should first discuss your concerns with the education provider. If you are unable to resolve the issue, you can choose to raise it with your school’s education authority. If the school’s education authority is unable to resolve the issue, you have a right to make a formal complaint to an anti-discrimination authority. Treating students unfairly because of their disability is discrimination and is unlawful under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA).
According to the DDA, discrimination occurs when someone with disability is treated less favourably than a person without disability in similar circumstances. Discrimination can be direct or indirect.
Under the Disability Standards for Education 2005 This link will open in a new window (the Standards), students with disability have a right to access education on the same basis as other students. This means they should have opportunities and choices that are comparable to those available to students without disability. Education providers usually make adjustments to practices, services, policies or procedures to comply with the Standards.
If reasonable adjustments are not made and a student with disability is not able to participate in education on the same basis as other students, the education provider may be discriminating against the student with disability. Discrimination against students with disability is prohibited under the DDA.
Raising concerns or complaints
First discuss the problem with the people involved.
Under the DDA it is against the law to:
treat a person unfairly because of disability
fail to comply with the Standards.
If you believe you or your child have been treated unfairly it is a good idea first to discuss this directly with the teacher (if it is a classroom issue) or the principal (if it is a school issue). This may clarify misunderstandings. Concerns are more easily resolved at the school level.
If this does not solve the problem, you can discuss your concerns with an education authority such as your state or territory’s education department, or a body that oversees a non-government education provider.
Finally, if the issue still cannot be resolved, you can take your complaint to a legal authority, such as the Australian Human Rights Commission, or the equivalent body in your state or territory.
These three stages are described in more detail below.
Discuss directly with the school
In the first instance, it is advisable to discuss your concerns with the person or organisation you believe is responsible for the discrimination. This is best done by:
asking for a meeting to discuss the issue
writing a letter or email about what has happened and how you would like it fixed, as this can be a useful way to organise thoughts.
Discuss with an education authority
If you are still not satisfied, you can discuss the issue with an education authority.
Australian schools are governed by different education authorities:
Government schools are governed by a state or territory education authority (such as an ‘education department’).
Non-government Catholic schools are usually governed by a Catholic education authority in each state or territory (such as a ‘Catholic Education Commission’).
Other non-government schools may be governed by a church or religious organisation (such as the Anglican Diocese, or the Seventh Day Adventist Church).
Some non-government schools are not governed by any higher authority, but are answerable to a school board. You can make a complaint to the chair of the board that governs your school or educational facility.
Complain to another authority
If you believe you or your child have been discriminated against because of disability, you have a right to discuss your concerns and make a formal complaint to an anti-discrimination authority, such as:
an anti-discrimination agency in your state or territory (such as an ‘anti-discrimination board’)
Information is available from a range of agencies that have expertise in discrimination law. These bodies have different names, depending on the state or territory where they are located. You can search for them on the internet using search terms such as 'Human Rights Commission'; 'anti-discrimination board' or 'anti-discrimination commission'; and 'Equal Opportunity Board' or 'Equal Opportunity Commission'.