Minister Josepha Madigan says girl with Down syndrome who spent most of her school day in foster care is ‘treated appallingly’


Special Education Minister Josepha Madigan said the way a young girl with additional needs who spent most of her school day in a home was being treated was “absolutely appalling”.

This week, a primary school was ordered to pay €12,000 in compensation to a girl with Down syndrome after she had to spend most of her school day in a hostel outside the classroom and away from her classmates.

At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), arbitrator Thomas O’Driscoll said the school’s “unprecedented actions” of having the girl spend a considerable part of her day in a home at outside the classroom “reinforced the idea for other children, and alarmingly for his sister that it might be normal to exclude children with special needs”.

Finding that the school had discriminated against the girl because of her disability under the Equal Status Act, Mr O’Driscoll said he was confident the remedy should be at the higher end of the spectrum. He said the school treated the girl less favorably by not providing her with reasonable accommodation under the Equal Status Act.

Ms Madigan said she “welcomed” the WRC’s decision and described the details of the case as “hugely disappointing”.

“This is totally discriminatory and really egregious behavior, and there is absolutely no excuse for these actions,” she said.

“We know that special education is underpinned by the EPSEN (education for people with special educational needs) law, which basically means that children should be educated with their peers in a school environment that has the resources to meet those needs. needs.”

Speaker on RTÉ Morning Ireland programme, Ms Madigan said while ‘this type of behavior is not common’, there was a ‘blatant disregard for guidance and protocols, but also the spirit of what inclusivity means’ in this case .

In his decision, Mr O’Driscoll said: ‘This is an unfortunate case and I generally accept that the school did not have as comprehensive resources as it should have been, but I nevertheless found that there were aggravating factors.”

However, Ms Madigan said there were ‘close’ to two special needs assistants for every five children, which she described as a ‘good quota’ for a class of her size. She also pointed out that Down Syndrome Ireland testified that he offered support to the school, but that it was refused.

Ms Madigan said teachers are responsible for the upbringing of all children and while ANS ‘look after the care needs of the child’ they should not have to ‘provide teaching and learning”.

“There are guidelines, there are the school quality framework, there are anti-bullying procedures, there are a number of different supports,” she said.

“I don’t accept any school that says there aren’t enough resources for inclusivity. The way this young girl was treated was absolutely appalling. This shouldn’t happen. It is not my experience that this happens on a regular basis and it is indeed in any way.

“We have to make sure something like this never happens again,” she added.


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