Sick kids miss school in three ways:
What The School Is Required To Do For Your kid (According To The Law)
The Australian Disabilities Discrimination Act (1992) (DDA) requires all students with a Disability in all states and territories to be given equal opportunities to all other students within each education system.
Students with serious and chronic medical conditions do fit the definition of “disability”.
The definition of disability under the DDA includes physical, intellectual, psychiatric, sensory, neurological, and learning disabilities, as well as physical disfigurements, and the presence of disease-causing organisms in the body. The definition includes past, present and future disabilities as well as imputed disabilities and covers behaviour that is a symptom or manifestation of the disability (June, 2012. Australian Government Report on the Review of Disability Standards for Education 2005)
What this means:
The school isn’t required to provide adjustments that would cause “unjustifiable hardship” to the school. This means that schools might sometimes say the cost of some levels of support is beyond the school’s ability to provide. (Note, in some cases, the school may be able to seek additional funding from their Department, or an outside funding source.)
Meet with the teacher and (preferably) either the school principal or deputy to talk through the circumstances.
Be politely assertive.
First speak with the class teacher. Try a reasonable approach.
If other attempts for assistance fail, make an appointment to speak with the Principal and outline the concerns. Take another responsible, trustworthy person to the interview with you.
If the other person is not your partner, introduce the person to the Principal and explain the context of their presence.
It’s always better, as far as possible, to stay on good terms with the school. It is, after all, where your kid is spending most of his/her day.
If all else fails and the principal won’t consider the requests and refuses to consult with you about your kid’s education – or refuses to make any Educational Adjustments for their learning – you have the right to formally complain.
There are several ways you can make a formal complaint. What you choose to do depends on what sort of school system your kid is in. For each;
Public education- state schools: most State Departments of Education have Regional Offices in main regional cities. Start there.
Catholic schools: each Catholic Diocese in each state has a Regional Office with a coordinator of Special Education. Start there.
Independent schools: includes all other schools – go to the Association of Independent Schools (or each state equivalent). They usually have several Special Education coordinators. Ask their advice. They generally don’t have direct administrative power over Independent Schools, except in some areas of funding – but they are good resource people.
Provision for your kid is covered under the Disabilities Discrimination Act (1992). This means it is a law.
Because of this, you have the right to press for reasonable adjustments in the school context.
Other people to contact:
Following up the issue of discrimination in schools can be very difficult. This is often why it doesn’t get fixed.
If your kid has an ongoing medical, physical or some other disability, you are probably already very stretched.
It is always best to try to communicate, collaborate and solve these problems in a reasonable and friendly way at school level, to maintain a positive environment for your kid.
If you take the issue beyond the school (and if there is genuine discrimination, it is your right to do so), this may negatively affect your and your kid’s relationships within the school.
Once school issues become legal battles, the reality is that relationships become very hard to mend. How far you go depends on how strongly you feel about the problem, what other options are open to you, your personal circumstances and your skill in communications.
How can we best communicate? Do you have email access? How long is reasonable to wait for an answer from you?
How can we make sure that relief staff are given helpful information about my kid?
How often should we review and update school medical and emergency records for my kid?
How can we keep my kid enthused about learning when s/he will be away (weekly, monthly, at a moment’s notice)?
What is the best way for the hospital school to contact you [assuming your kid will be in hospital]?
What do you need from us regarding information about our kid’s condition? What are the timelines/deadlines for any documentation you require (we might not be able to get them, if we don’t have sufficient notice)?
Is there a place in the classroom we can go, when returning from absences, to find our notes, school newsletters, etc.? If our kid is away, is it possible for you to email these to us, along with information on special events and excursions (or events for which we need to submit notes/money)?
What is the life cycle of the Individual Learning Plan, assessment process for eligibility for funding/special assistance, and the Individual Learning Plan review process? How do they fit together? Who needs to be involved in the process?
Can my kid’s Individual Learning Plan be reviewed early in Term 3, to allow for adjustments to take effect, instead of in Term 4 when the year is nearly over?
There are, of course, other questions that may arise generally, or for your kid’s specific circumstances.
Have your say. Do you have comments, questions, or suggestions after reading this piece?