(UK) Court rules against schools excluding autistic students; case affects thousands

Aug 14, 2018, BBC: School exclusion of autistic boy unlawful, judge rules The exclusion of an autistic boy after he hit a teaching assistant with a ruler, punched her and pulled her hair, was unlawful, a court has ruled. Following the incident in February 2016, the child, known only as "L", was given a one-and-half day exclusion. But a judge in the Upper Tribunal has ruled that "aggressive behaviour is not a choice for children with autism". Campaigners say the ruling will have a major impact on future generations of children on the autism spectrum. The Department for Education says it will consider the implications of the ruling. Judge Rowley said that "aggressive behaviour is not a choice for children with autism". "In my judgment the Secretary of State has failed to justify maintaining in force a provision which excludes from the ambit of the protection of the Equality Act, children whose behaviour in school is a manifestation of the very condition which calls for special educational provision to be made for them…. "As has been made clear in the judgment, this decision does not mean that schools are prevented from excluding children where it is necessary and proportionate to do so. "However, it will ensure all disabled children are afforded the same safeguards, protections and rights under the law, regardless of whether their disability gives rise to challenging behaviour." A DfE spokesman said: "The government is fully committed to protecting the rights of children with disabilities, as well as making sure schools are safe environments for all pupils. "We will be carefully considering the judgment and its implications before deciding the next steps." Earlier this year, the government launched an external review of exclusions to look at how schools are using exclusions and why some groups are disproportionately excluded.