Parents of bullied pupil in legal challenge to expulsion court

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The Independent Online
THE PARENTS of a special needs pupil who was expelled from school because he attempted suicide are to challenge the decision in a landmark hearing at the High Court today.

The principal and governors of a school in Surrey permanently excluded the 12-year-old after he took a knife to school and told teachers he wanted to commit suicide. He had previously complained that he had been bullied by other pupils. His parents say the act was a "desperate cry for help" which has left him stigmatised as an "expelled" student.

The boy suffers from Asperger's syndrome but has been declared suitable for mainstream education.

Lawyers acting for the boy believe the case has wide implications for mainstream schools with special needs children who prefer to exclude them rather than make proper provision. Paul Conrathe, of Croydon law firm Coningsbys, said he had another case of a special needs student who had been expelled because he let off a stink-bomb. "The cases highlight very clearly how schools and local education authorities should not deal with the problems arising from a child's educational needs," he said.

The Surrey school later admitted in a letter to the mother that it was "loathe to exclude" the boy because he may not have been aware of the "consequences of bringing a knife to school." However, in another letter the principal said it did not matter whether the pupil was aware of what he was doing. He then expelled him on the grounds of being a risk to "health and safety".

The school governors said that, although they disagreed with the procedure, they had no alternative but to uphold the principal's decision. They said: "We would not wish any stigma attached to him ... In our opinion, it is regrettable that this is the only way forward."

Between February and May this year the pupil received no education, and even now has only a few hours tuition a week.

The boy's parents said: "Our child became emotional traumatised by bullying at school and through pressure to cope with a national curriculum which could not be adapted to meet his special needs. We raised our concern with the school, but unfortunately there was not the expertise there to cope with the problem."