LawSense Managing Student Disability – Adjustments, Behaviour, Learning & Discipline

Includes Key Update by Kate Eastman SC on Schools & The Disability Royal Commission

Date19 March 2024
Time12.00pm-3.45pm AEDT (Syd/Melb time)
VenueLive Online with recording - recording access expires 19 April 2023
Prices includes gst.
SectorNon-State Schools
CPDAddresses 7.2 of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers


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12.00    LawSense Welcome

12.05    Chairperson’s Introduction

Dr Gareth Leechman, Headmaster, Arndell Anglican College; Chair, NSW AHISA

12.10    An Overview for Schools of the Work and Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability

  • The Royal Commission’s public hearings, research and consideration of the rights of students with disability and education
  • The Royal Commission’s findings and recommendations concerning inclusive education and discrimination in education, including the Disability Discrimination Act, Disability Education Standards, segregated settings and restrictive practices relevant to schools
  • Issues for schools to consider arising from the Royal Commission

Kate Eastman AM SC, Barrister and recently Senior Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability

1.10    Break

1.20    Enrolment of Students with a Disability: Exploring Best Practice in Investigation, Assessment and Consultation, and Determining Unjustifiable Hardship

Current Legal Framework and Potential Reform

  • Reviewing the current laws affecting disability discrimination in schools and potential reform
  • Understanding current interpretations of disability laws, including the implications of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability
  • Exploring circumstances where you can impute disability

Information You Should Collect Prior to Enrolment and Pre-Enrolment Contracts Regarding Disclosure

  • Understanding the legal limits regarding information you can and cannot collect
  • Exploring optimum information collection – what information should you seek of whom
  • Dealing with reports from external professional provided by the parents or advocates. When should you obtain your own professional evidence?
  • Entering into a pre-enrolment contract with the parents requiring provision of all relevant information

Extent of Consultation Required

  • Outlining the laws requiring consultation
  • Examining what constitutes a reasonable level of consultation. What information should be communicated to parents?

Unjustifiable Hardship and Factoring Impacts on Other Students, Existing Disabled Students and Staff

  • Examining when you can decline enrolment for ‘unjustifiable hardship’. What is ’unjustifiable’?
  • Balancing the impact on:
  • other students – to what extent does this factor into ‘unjustifiable hardship’ or ‘reasonable’ adjustments?
  • impacts on staff – understanding what to consider
    • factoring in limitations on resources as a result of already supporting a number of students with a disability

Parents Not Disclosing or Not Concerned About Meeting Educational Needs

  • Managing discrimination obligations where:
  • the student has a disability that was not disclosed by parents/guardian in the enrolment process
  • the parents/guardian do not care if you are unable to meet the educational needs or curriculum regarding the student, but just want them to be able to attend school

Disability Emerging After a Place Has Been Offered or Accepted

  • Managing obligations where:
  • a place has been offered, but the student develops a disability prior to commencing school
  • a disability is developed post-enrolment

Optimising Documentation

  • Implementing documentation and communications to optimise recording keeping and protect your legal position

Morgan Smithe, Associate, Russell Kennedy Lawyers

2.20    Break

2.30    Reasonable Adjustments Case Studies – Behaviour, Learning & Activities: Understanding Limits, Effectively Balancing Factors and Navigating Student Discipline

Rights of the School to Determine Adjustments Versus Experts

  • Understanding the rights and responsibilities of the school versus health experts to determine what the student requires to meet the diagnosis or disability

Reasonable Adjustments Case Studies – Disability Affecting Behaviour

  • Exploring the range of disabilities encountered by schools impacting behaviour or causing significant impacts of students and staff – ADD/ADHD, ODD and other behaviour disorders, depression/self-harm
  • Learning from case studies and examples:
    • how should schools approach determining the limits of reasonable adjustments required in each circumstance?
    • balancing impacts on other students and staff
    • managing experts: responding to experts, briefing, and managing school experts
    • determining unjustifiable hardship
  • Managing consultation and communications with parents, other stakeholders, and advocates
  • Documenting steps and decision making regarding reasonable adjustments to ensure compliance and optimise your legal position

Reasonable Adjustments Case Studies – Learning Disability

  • Learning from case studies and examples:
    • optimising assessment of learning needs
    • understanding the extent to which you can make changes to the curriculum
    • exploring the limits of required learning support resources
    • implementing changes to the physical learning environment

Reasonable Adjustments Case Studies – Activities, Excursions & Trips

  • Interpreting and applying obligations to make reasonable adjustments with school excursions, camps and trips. What are the limits of reasonable adjustments? When can you say a student cannot attend an, excursion, camp or trip?

Discipline, Suspensions and Expulsions

  • Outlining and balancing key laws:
    • laws applying to student rights and procedural fairness
    • understanding restrictive practices
    • obligations to staff, including WHS and other obligations
  • School discipline examples and case studies: assessing options considering discrimination and other obligations:
    • managing ongoing discipline of a student with behavioural disability issues
    • navigating suspensions
    • expulsion of a student with behavioural disability – key considerations and navigating pitfalls
  • Effectively documenting steps, communications, and decisions regarding expulsions to protect your legal position

Dealing with Challenging Scenarios

  • Balancing the reasonable workload of teachers with reasonable adjustments
  • Managing differences in views between experts, parents and the student about adjustments
  • Assessing the reasonableness of one-on-one support
  • Asking parents to cover some of the costs
  • Considering partial student attendance
  • Managing circumstances where parents do not wish adjustments to be made
  • An expert report suggests certain adjustments but the school has no evidence of the student needing the adjustments
  • Managing therapists attending classes to observe a student, including privacy issues and therapist reporting on issues outside the scope of visiting arrangements

Tracey Jessie, Principal, Jessie Lawyers; Former Principal, Education Queensland

3.40      Chairperson’s Conclusion

3.45      Event Close

Presenters / panelists include:

Kate Eastman has over 30 years’ experience in dispute resolution and advocacy in a wide range of employment disputes, all aspects of sexual harassment, discrimination and vilification law, public law, education and health law. She is a recognised expert in human rights law (international and Australia). Kate was recently Senior Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. In 2021, Kate was made a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the law, to human rights and to professional organisations.
Ben Tallboys provides sector-specific, practical legal solutions to schools across Australia. Ben is a passionate and effective advocate for principals dealing with complex matters relating to parents, staff and students, as well as their own employment.
Before studying law Tracey Jessie was a teacher and principal within Education Queensland. Tracey now advises a range of educational institutions on employment matters. Tracey has extensive experience leading investigations and complaints on behalf of employer organisations. She is experienced in preparing employment contracts, policies and procedures for employers.

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