Successful Claim of Disability Discrimination


A claim of Disability Discrimination was brought against a BESD School in England following an incident whereby a young person assaulted a teacher. Despite the fact that normally a tendency to commit physical violence against another would invalidate a claim of this type, we were able to successfully prove to the satisfaction of the Tribunal that the action of the teacher caused the young person to react in this way and that this reaction was a result of his disability. Showing this causal link enabled Simpson Millar LLP to make a successful claim on behalf of the client.

Children Stairs

The young person had a diagnosis of Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) and this, combined with further diagnosis of ADHD and ASD meant that the Tribunal agreed that he was disabled within the terms of the Equality Act 2010. The school as the Responsible Body were aware of his disability prior to his taking up a placement with them. The young person had been placed in the school due to the fact that he was unable to access education in a standard educational placement of any type as a result of his severe behavioural difficulties. Despite the information being readily available the Responsible Body did not have sufficient understanding of the nature of the young person's particular needs prior to his taking up the placement.

On entering the classroom the teacher asked the young person to remove his coat and he refused to do so. On being asked to take his books from his bag he refused, on being asked further to leave the room, he again refused; these refusals were consistent with the behaviour of a young person with a diagnosis of PDA. Despite this, the teacher and teaching assistant persisted in making repeated requests of him. In response the young person pulled his hood over his head and put his head on the table in front of him. At this, the teacher, along with a teaching assistant attempted to remove the young person forcibly from the classroom. The young person reacted by winding his legs around the legs of the table. The physical manhandling of the young person was such that a leg was detached from the table and he was carried bodily from the room, kicking and screaming. He was further restrained for 20 minutes following his removal from the classroom. During this incident injuries were sustained by all parties.

The Tribunal agreed with Simpson Millar LLP that the Responsible Body had failed to understand or be aware of its obligations under the Equality Act; there had been additional failure by the responsible body in relation to its own behaviour management policy and a failure to provide reasonable adjustments in respect of the young person's disability.

The Tribunal stated that this was a "bad case of Disability Discrimination" it was inferred that, if it had been possible to award damages, as would have been the case if the matter was being dealt with by the Courts, then they would have done so. The Responsible Body were ordered to make a full written apology to the young person expressing their regret and providing an explanation of the steps the school would put in pace to ensure this type of discrimination would not occur again. The Responsible Body were also ordered to ensure that all senior managers, staff and governors underwent training with regards to the implications of the Equality Act for school management. They were also ordered to undertake a full review of all the school's policies to ensure they were compatible with responsibilities under equality legislation to be conducted with external assistance from appropriate educational consultants. A copy of the decision was also ordered to be forwarded to OFSTED, The Equality and Human Rights Commission and the chief office for children and education of the county.

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