Dad loses discrimination case against education department
THE father of a disabled boy has lost a discrimination case against Education Queensland over the treatment of his son at a Hervey Bay State School.
Peter Connor claimed his son Beau, who has autism spectrum disorder and other disorders, was treated less favourably than other students by being suspended 11 times.
He also claimed Beau, now 14, was subjected to physical restraint or violence and isolated or secluded, on the basis of his disability, on at least 25 occasions.
The father also alleged the State Education Department discriminated against Beau by failing to provide his son with a functional behaviour assessment or plan.
Beau was a student at Kawungan State School and aged between five and nine, at the time, the Federal Court heard.
He also has pervasive development disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other conditions.
Justice Darryl Rangiah said Beau would frequently engage in disruptive behaviour at school, physically assaulting teachers or students.
On some occasions he was physically restrained by staff and confined to a room and he was frequently suspended, the judge said.
The State admitted school staff used a quiet area known as the "Withdrawal Room" to calm Beau on about 17 occasions, but denied all allegations of discrimination.
On the seventh day of the nine-day trial Peter Connor tried to raise new allegations against staff, including attempted murder, abuse, deprivation of liberty and assault and battery.
Justice Rangiah did not allow it.
Five witnesses gave evidence in support of the discrimination claim, including Beau, parents Peter and Julie Connor, a behaviour and disability expert and a psychologist.
Julie Connor collapsed in the witness box and could not continue giving evidence.
Justice Rangiah said a number of Peter Connor's allegations were fuelled by his anger and not supported by evidence.
"He made some outrageous and no doubt hurtful accusations against the teachers without evidence," the judge said.
Justice Rangiah found Peter Connor, who objected to being called "Mr", showed no understanding of the difficult circumstances and conflicting duties faced by the teachers who dealt with Beau.
The State's 18 witnesses were "vigorously" cross-examined by Peter Connor.
Justice Rangiah rejected the suggestion that school staff deliberately targeted Beau because of his disabilities or that teachers had acted maliciously towards him.
"I consider that each of them carried out their duties in a professional and caring manner," Justice Rangiah said.
Justice Rangiah found the true reason Beau was suspended on each occasion was his behaviour and not his disability.
"I accept the physical restraints of Beau were reasonable, proportionate and the minimum necessary," Justice Rangiah said.
He said Beau was physically restrained as a last resort, after he had hit, kicked or harmed students, staff or himself.
Justice Rangiah said the Withdrawal Room was used to protect Beau.
The judge said Beau was not treated differently to that of another student without his disabilities, in the same circumstances.
The judge rejected all three allegations that the State discriminated against Beau because of his disability, and dismissed the case.
He ordered Peter Connor to pay the costs of the proceedings.
Originally published as Dad loses discrimination case against Education Qld