Increase in the proportion of students with disabilities expelled from Victoria Public Schools during the COVID pandemic

Dimmock said the official data also concealed a much more widespread practice of informally excluding students with disabilities with challenging behavior.

Informal exclusions can take many forms, she said. For example, a student who has a behavioral incident will be removed from school and then return at reduced hours.

“It is deeply concerning and often there is no plan to increase this attendance,” she said.

Dimmock said expulsion can have a “devastating impact” on a student’s education.

“For students who are officially expelled, it is normally the principal’s responsibility to help that family [to] find them another school, but obviously that can be very difficult.

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A veteran principal, who spoke anonymously due to the sensitivity of the topic, said mainstream schools often struggled to accommodate students with significant behavioral issues.

“The end result is that these students feature more prominently in expulsion and suspension data. It’s not because kids with disabilities are bullied. Sometimes it just doesn’t work,” they said.

Association of Special School Principals President Cameron Peverett said students with disabilities tended to thrive in routine and many had been disrupted by transitions to and from remote learning over the course of of the past two years.

“More than 50% of students funded for a disability would be in the regular school system [school] setting,” Peverett said. “These kids… tend to have a hard time changing their routines and I imagine in a regular setting it takes a certain level of creativity and tenacity to make sure you’re able to provide reasonable adjustments to all of them. students in your class,” he said.

“In a lockdown, it probably wouldn’t take much to not get it right.”

Expulsions have declined in numbers in Victorian state schools since mid-2018, when a new Ministerial Order gave parents, guardians and pupils new grounds to appeal to an independent panel. The reform came after Victoria’s ombudsman published a report which criticized the expulsion process in schools, finding that a disproportionate number of pupils affected had a disability, lived away from home or were identified as Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.

Federation of Australian Head Teachers president Tina King said the expulsions were “the end point of a very long road” after all other options for support or intervention had been exhausted.

“Principals have a duty to take care of everyone in the school and sometimes if someone’s behavior and conduct endangers or threatens others, whether students or staff , tough decisions have to be made,” she said. “Sometimes you need to check if the particular frame is the right frame for the child.”

A spokeswoman for the Andrews government said expulsions are always a last resort, and in the rare cases where they are needed, students are helped to find an alternative educational setting and transition as soon as possible.

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“There has been a 25% reduction in the number of students with disabilities expelled since the start of the pandemic,” the spokeswoman said.

Mija Gwyn, head of the Youth Disability Advocacy Service, said the organization was “concerned by the very high proportion of students with disabilities who are expelled from their schools, as it shows that young people with disabilities are being denied their right to education”.

Gwyn said the Advocacy Service’s COVID-19 Youth Advisory Group has heard that many students with disabilities receive too little support to participate in their education on an equal footing with their non-disabled peers during times of hardship. distance learning.

“In situations where young people are not expelled or suspended, students with disabilities consistently reported that they often interrupted their studies due to stress associated with disability-related discrimination perpetuated by their education providers,” a- she declared.

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