Naming and Shaming Schools that Mistreat the Disabled

There is a story and radio interview out today about a local school – that goes unnamed – where disabled students are treated awfully and actively discouraged from enrolling. The school is a public school, and for some people in the region, the only public school for which they are zoned to attend. The fact that the school goes unnamed, was one I initially sympathised with – there are often many sides to a story, and one poor experience can over-shadow a wealth of far more successful ones. However, the more I reflected on the matter, and the more of the story that I came to understand, I realised how deeply misplaced that sympathy was.

Free use image

Free use image

There is a clear and uncontested problem in this country with holding schools accountable for the ways – both subtle and outrageously unsubtle – that they exclude and discourage disabled students. Part of the problem with holding these schools accountable is apparently proving that the school has acted in this way – ie have discriminated against the disabled. However, as you’ll find in the piece I’ve linked to at the outset of this post, that is a problem with the system itself – the system of education reviews here appears to fall short of the robustness, insight, or power necessary to provide that proof. Without that official accountability, it becomes particularly important that the rest of the public – those who are trying to choose a school for their children, and those who can in other ways hold the school publically accountable for its horrendous and backwards treatment of our kids – get to know the name of the school involved in such behaviour.

It is no small decision when we choose a school for our children. We invest time and money in transitions, uniforms, relationship building, we may even choose to move house into or away from an area because we’re seeking what we think is a good school. In making that decision, we should also have the right to know whether the school we are choosing even wants us there, or whether it will dedicate itself to our kids (and us) feeling unwanted until we reach the point of leaving, making room for the next victim on their roll.

Anonymity in the current educational climate, only helps the school to remain the way it is, and helps line up families unknowing of what sort of school environment they are exposing their child to. This goes for families of non-disabled children too – they too should be rejecting and fighting against the sort of school where discrimination is par for the course, where some children are deemed “too hard” to bother with, where school personnel and boards think they are above the law and feel they don’t have to respect basic rights to education.

I think too that the mere fact there are multiple good or successful stories coming out of a school, cannot and should not be treated as a reason to ignore or downplay the utter failures that occur. It is easy to look after many families in schools – the ones where families are intact, where children are particularly intelligent and meet milestones with little effort, where financial wealth means children are well-fed, clothed, and can attend class trips, etc – it is a lot more challenging and a better mark of the school, as to how well it deals with the children and families who don’t meet these markers. To put it another way, if 99% of your students are not very disabled, and 1% are, is it really a valid defence to the complaints made by the 1% to say “but the school has lots of success stories from the 99%”? Each serious complaint of misconduct by a school, deserves to be heard and dealt with – publically if need be – especially considering the lack of accountability.

Furthermore, our public schools, and an ever increasing number of our private schools, take tax payer money to provide education to the New Zealand public. Where they have failed to provide that service because of discrimination or abuse of our disabled children, we have a right to know about it. That’s our money they are choosing to misspend (or not spend at all) on our children, forcing us to put our children through multiple school or home address changes that we should never have had to go through.

We should know about which schools are behaving in this way. We should demand answers. We should demand accountability. If the existing system won’t give us that accountability – if they’ll just keep taking our money, our time, our children’s happiness because no one is making them face their disgraceful behaviour as an educational institution – then we stand up and speak out ourselves.

The time for the silent painful shuffling of our kids from one discriminating school to the next, needs to be over.

This entry was posted in Commentaries on NZ News Stories, Schooling and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Naming and Shaming Schools that Mistreat the Disabled

  1. ambhannah says:

    Discriminatory schools should be named and shamed because they place a burden on the schools that are not discriminatory. ERO won’t even indicate the total number of ORS students at schools citing privacy. It just seems an excuse to me.
    It all comes back down to Special Education. An organisation that has been allowed to languish in its ineffectuality and unhelpfulness. An organisation not fighting for the children it is supposed to be helping.

  2. Speaking of bullies in positions of responsibility, check out the #AutismGate hashtag on FB.
    Like posts for extra support 🙂

  3. Dana says:

    I am not surprised to read that schools discriminate against autistics. Back in the 60’s I was considered “autistic,” later diagnosed auspergers, other end of spectrum. My grandmother worked with me (she was an English teacher). She was able to help me somehow adapt by using the type of learning I required. It was difficult to keep up with normal kids. I had trouble understanding some of the teachers in different classes. But I was able to adapt somehow by my grandmother’s teaching methods. No one ever knew I was either autistic or auspergers. I was not allowed to discuss it. She explained why. That people would not understand. They would talk differently to me and not teach me as other children. Some might be afraid or uncomfortable.

    I was writing articles for a newspaper for nearly three years, I made the mistake of thinking I am all grown up now and I should be proud to be what I am and I confided in someone. That person leaked the information to the paper of a small town. My editor began to ignore me. I could no longer communicate with the editor over me. Emails went unanswered. I resigned. The place where I was known to “volunteer” then enacted a new rules of a code of conduct? The place where I volunteered was for people who are senior citizens of which I became a slightly younger member among them. Do you see where I am going with this? My grandmother’s fears for me came true because I violated her rule of silence and secrecy. I am now being shunned by some people, and I had gotten so stressed out and depressed that I “reverted” a bit back to my childhood halting speech and mostly silence. I have one true friend that is helping me. She is a retired teacher of special ed and children with disabilities. It even makes me sick to write this, but I am more afraid of what will happen to others like me if I fail to write this.

    My name has been changed to protect myself from further judgmental behavior. Some people in my community began to back off from me in volunteer activities where I had always been welcomed. Nothing changed. I am still me, it’s just that now they knew something about me that was “hidden” from them.

    Because one fellow writer revealed his diagnosis very proudly on the internet, I felt that I could too. I can’t use a good email, I’m sorry.

    • Kiri says:

      I’m sorry to hear that you have suffered such appalling treatment. It highlights how much discrimination there is against the disabled. For what it’s worth, I think you are amazing to have overcome the obstacles that you have faced. I hope things will improve for you and that you will find people who value you as you deserve.

  4. Kiri says:

    We need official data on outcomes for special education children. Look at how much funding and support, both public and private, there is for Maori and Pacifica children. All because the data shows how the education system has failed them. Schools need to be accountable and any that do not measure up compared with their peers should be penalised.

  5. Alice says:

    More parents should avail themselves of the Google Maps review function. A good honest opinion of any bad experiences, even if annonymous, can make prospective parents look a little closer and ask the right questions before enrolment. It just may mean less heartbreak and harm further down the track. There is also the review site –

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