School taken to court for banning diabetic boy from overseas visits

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The Independent Online

A grammar school that banned a 15-year-old boy from going on two foreign trips because he is diabetic is facing legal action.

A grammar school that banned a 15-year-old boy from going on two foreign trips because he is diabetic is facing legal action.

The case of Tom White, which is being brought against Clitheroe Royal Grammar School in Lancashire by the Disability Rights Commission, is the first of its kind.

Tom, who has had diabetes since he was nine, was barred from a watersports holiday in France after he had been offered a place and had paid his deposit. The school imposed the ban after Tom had a severe hypoglycaemic attack, which causes dizziness and sometimes a blackout because of low sugar levels, on a school trip in February. Stuart Holt, the head, also told Tom's parents he could not go on a German exchange visit, even though he is taking German at GCSE.

Tom's father, Malcolm White, aged 48, said: "Tom is devastated by the ban. It is totally unfair to stop him going on trips with his friends and other pupils because he has diabetes. We have tried every channel to get the school to change their minds but they have chosen to ignore the medical, educational and legal experts."

Bert Massie, chairman of the Disability Rights Commission, said: "It is blatantly unfair to ban Tom because he's had one severe hypo. A disabled pupil should have access to the same opportunities as everyone else." He said the case "highlights the urgency to put theeducation system squarely within the bounds of antidiscrimination law."

The commission, which is bringing the case under the goods and services section of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, said the case raised a glaring gap in the law. Because legislation did not cover education, action could be taken only over recreational holidays and not over the German exchange.

Mr White said that Tom had suffered only one severe attack and had his diabetes under control. He had offered to pay for training about diabetes for the school's teachers but his offer had been turned down.

In a statement, the school said it resented the suggestion that Tom had been barred because of his disability. "We have taken students with a range of disabilities on trips and will continue to do so. However, if a student behaves in a way which endangers his or her health or well-being or in a way which reduces the level of staff supervision available for other students, then we may decide not to take that particular student.

"This has nothing to do with disability: it is rather that we make a risk assessment and take into account previous behaviour to ensure the safety of all our pupils."

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