Leeds school discriminated against pupil with special educational needs by excluding him for his behaviour

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A secondary school in Yorkshire has been found to have discriminated against a pupil because of his learning disabilities by repeatedly excluding him.

The student was excluded four times in his final year as a result of a discipline policy, but a tribunal has said the academy in Leeds failed to take his needs into account.

The pupil had a statement of special educational needs relating to his emotional and behavioural development, his language development and self esteem as a learner.

A tribunal has ruled that the school’s action were a serious case of disability discrimination. It found that the exclusions had a negative impact on the pupils’ GCSE results and said they arose from a “systemic disregard of the needs of disabled pupils”.

The Yorkshire Post cannot name the school or identify the student for legal reasons.

The father of the pupil, who has now left the school, said: “I am overwhelmed by the verdict, very pleased justice has been done, and although it won’t put things right for my son, I hope more young people will now have their voices heard and won’t suffer the same discrimination.”

The tribunal has ordered the school to review its disciplinary policy and ensure staff and governors are given training on equality law.

A school spokesman said: “This was a complex case but we accept the tribunal’s findings and have begun the process of adhering in full to its orders.

“Indeed, the academy has already made significant steps towards addressing these issues in the period since the claim. The lack of explicit consideration that occurred was regrettable, but was wholly unintentional.”

The father pursued the case as a claim of discrimination under the Equality Act. It was focussed on four fixed-term exclusions his son was given in the space of seven months in his last year at school, in the run-up to sitting his GCSE exams.

They were given to the pupil under a discipline policy which saw him put in isolation as 10 negative comments were made by staff at the school about his behaviour in the space of a week.

The tribunal noted that the first three-day exclusion was given after he was sent to isolation. He was excluded again for five days just over a month later after swearing at a member of staff during detention and again for eight days after swearing at a teacher during another spell in isolation.

The final exclusion was for 12 days and was said to be longer because it was his fourth one. In total he missed 28 days - almost six weeks of lessons as a result of fixed-term exclusions.

The school had told the tribunal that after each exclusion the pupil had been spoken to on his return about the need for his behaviour to improve. He completed the final eight weeks of the school year without being excluding again and is now in college.

The tribunal decision said: “It is no answer to a claim of discrimination to say ‘we treat all pupils the same’. Far from providing a defence, it will often amount to an admission.”

It added: “To treat everyone the same, to apply the school’s rules and procedures on behaviour management regardless of disability, is to discriminate against a pupil whose disabilities call for a proportionate response, or adjustments, to be made.”