School sued for alleged autism discrimination

A Queensland mum is suing a private Gold Coast school for $120,000 alleging she and her autistic son were hurt and humiliated at having to leave the school after it discriminated against her son.

Lisa Douglas, from Branyan near Bundaberg, claims Saint Stephens College at Coomera discriminated against Riley, then aged 5, in 2017 when he was forced to leave in the third term of his prep year, because of his autism.

She alleges the school unlawfully discriminated against Riley on the basis of his autism by "failing to make reasonable adjustments for Riley to receive support services at the school" such as an education assistant.

Mrs Douglas has asked the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane to order the school to change its policies to include reasonable adjustments and support for children with disabilities, and to apologise to her and her son publicly.

 

Lisa Douglas has asked the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane to order the school to change its policies. Picture: Regi Varghese
Lisa Douglas has asked the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane to order the school to change its policies. Picture: Regi Varghese

 

She claims Riley suffered the hurt and humiliation in having to leave Saint Stephens College during the third term of school and to start again at a new school after Saint Stephens "cancelled Rileys education assistant" in September 2017.

"Riley lost valuable friendships and relationships in leaving Saint Stephens college," the claim states.

She says as a result of the discrimination the family located to Bundaberg to attend a new private school St John's Lutheran College.

The school cancelled the education assistant on the grounds that Riley "displayed learned helplessness" when his education assistant was in class and because "Riley needed to learn to be independent to be at school as he would not be allowed any education assistant or support services in grade one".

Mrs Douglas is also suing Brian Fischer, the dean of the Saint Stephens College junior school.

It is the second suit for Mrs Douglas, who sued the Anglican Church-run The Southport School in October 2017 in the Federal Circuit Court claiming the school broke anti-discrimination laws when it rejected her son's preschool application.

She settled that claim for "hurt and humiliation" out of court in June last year for an undisclosed sum.

Saint Stephens College has not filed a defence to the claims. Mrs Douglas did not respond for requests for comment.

The case is due in court on August 2.