Disabled children deserve a fair chance at school – IHC takes its fight back to the Human Rights Review Tribunal

Media release
17 June 2021

IHC is taking its fight for disabled children’s rights to an education to the Human Rights Review Tribunal today – the third time in 13 years.

A legal decision earlier this year cleared the way for the case to be heard and IHC is lodging its statement of claim today.

IHC has long been fighting for the government to back up the legislation saying all children deserve the right to be educated and welcomed at their local school.

The government has discriminated against disabled children by not providing the right support for those children to enrol and succeed like their peers.

IHC’s Director of Advocacy Trish Grant says the government has failed to engage with the unfairness experienced by disabled students for years.

“We started this in 2008,” says Trish. “That’s the timeframe of an entire school education in New Zealand – a child starting school in 2008 is now in their last year of high school.”

“Children with disabilities are far more likely to be suspended, stood down or excluded from school because the schools aren’t well enough resourced to support diverse learners.”

“We hear of children told they can only attend one hour a day, can’t be part of school activities or are left colouring-in while other children are supported to learn.”

“Our surveys and family workshops have also taught us that parents often have to give up work in order to attend school with their child so they can be there.

The last time IHC submitted a statement of claim for this complaint the government lawyers tried to get the claim struck out on technicalities, but the Tribunal ruled that this was not in the spirit of human rights law and the matter would now proceed to an argument about the substantive parts of the complaint.

IHC’s legal action is being led by Michael Timmins, the Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings.

The government has until August to respond to IHC’s claim, with next steps to be decided in September.