Jarrod's parent describes being discriminated against in education because of a disability. We explain how the Equal Opportunity Act relates to their situation, and how the Commission can help people who have a similar experience.
"She said that the school would be unlikely to offer Jarrod a place because they were not set up to provide support for ‘students like him’. What does that even mean?"
“I have a lot of respect for teachers, and my son’s primary school made such an effort to make him feel welcome and get the most out of his time there. Jarrod has a cognitive disability and his behaviour in class can be a challenge, but he’s generally very happy to join in and his classroom teachers have always built a good relationship with him. There were really no major issues in his time at primary school.
When we started looking at secondary schools, I arranged a meeting with the local school. It’s the only one that’s easily accessible but it has a good reputation, and a few of Jarrod’s friends were going there for Year 7. When I met with the principal, I let her know that Jarrod has some particular needs and I could see her become quite standoffish straightaway. She said that the school would be unlikely to offer Jarrod a place because they were not set up to provide support for ‘students like him’. What does that even mean? I’d barely told her anything about the kind of adjustments that would make life at school easier for Jarrod, so I don’t know how she could make a decision like that.
It was pretty upsetting and made me feel like they were discriminating against Jarrod because of his disability. We decided to send Jarrod to a different school, but I asked the Commission to contact the school and remind them of their obligations. They should be making an effort to accommodate students with special needs. Everyone has a right to an education.”
The incidents portrayed in this story are inspired by real complaints received by the Commission, but all names and other identifying details have been changed.
How does the law apply to Jarrod’s situation?
Under Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act, it’s against the law to discriminate against someone because they have a disability. This means the school can’t treat Jarrod unfairly because he has a disability.
The Equal Opportunity Act applies in many areas of public life, including education. It also covers employment, provision of goods and services, and accommodation.
You can make a complaint
Get help from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
You can make a complaint to us if you think you have experienced:
If you wish, someone else can make a complaint for you.
Find out how the Commission helps people resolve complaints.
We can also give you information about your rights.
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"Later that week, my manager spoke to me about the meeting. He was angry that I’d arranged the meeting and said that I was trying to undermine him. He said I was ‘a troublemaker’ who needed to ‘learn to fit in’."