Kid takes knife to school over fear of ‘extreme’ bullying
A SET of Townsville siblings who have disabilities have had teachers pull their hats off, pages ripped out of textbooks, and punished at school due to a "massive lack of understanding" of their needs by educators.
Yet it was "incredibly difficult" to get teachers to make changes, their mother has told the Disability Royal Commission, saying it was time to realise the way students with a disability are treated "is not okay".
She said the lack of motivation by some teachers to make adjustments in class meant her eldest child faced bullying so "extreme" he once brought a knife to school because he was "that scared".
The mother, known as "Witness AAC", has five children that each have a combination of either anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Herself a special-education teacher, the mother said teachers and other school staff needed increased knowledge and understanding of the challenges that are faced by students with disability so the appropriate supports could be provided.
She called for future teachers to be taught those skills at university and for additional funding to ensure schools have enough manpower and resources to ensure students with a disability have equity in education.
"It breaks my heart to think that people still think that children with a disability don't have the same rights as everybody else. It shows me that there's such a long way to go," she said.
"The perception that the education of students with disabilities is a lower priority, and that actually doing the adjustments and teaching this child with a disability is like an extra thing in your job, and it's not. It's your job."
Witness AAC, who has worked at multiple Townsville state schools, said one school principal didn't understand why an extra staff member was needed during breaks and instead proposed gathering every child with a disability at lunchtime and confining them in one area.
"I tried to explain how this proposal was not satisfactory, but the principal did not seem to understand," she said.
"I had to resort to doing a comparison with choosing a group of children of a single race and asking whether it would be okay to put them in a shed at lunchtimes."
Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates, who also gave evidence on day two of the Royal Commission hearing being held in Townsville, said the union could not support the notion of students with disabilities being enrolled wholly in mainstream schools because there was "currently no capacity for the system to provide the resources necessary".
"The current expectations on teachers have already reached the limit of human capacity, adding additional expectations would stretch us well beyond that," he said.
"To suggest that you can have some sort of suite of options that will meet all of the needs of a child defined in some centrally determined way is extremely problematic."
QTU's position, Mr Bates said, was for more special schools to be built, though academics have advocated against this, saying it was segregation.
Greens Senator Jordan Steele-John said he was "shocked" at the union's position.
"The union is advocating a position which not only in contravention of UN human rights law and departing of every academic research done in this country and around the world," he said.
"There is not a shred of evidence to support segregated education and in fact shows it has negative effects.
"I will be urgently seeking a meeting with Mr Bates and make it very clear that disabled kids deserved to be treated with the same respect and equality as everyone else."
The hearing continues on Wednesday with the principals of Thuringowa, Ingham, and Bowen State High School, along with the head of their special education service departments, due to give evidence on Wednesday on the implementation of the State Government's inclusion policy, to what extent it is working, and what else teachers need.