Teacher seen ‘dragging’ student: Commission hears

 

A TOWNSVILLE mother whose daughter has disabilities has spoken out about the struggles they have faced in the education system, including a time when the girl was left with "severe anxiety" due to the actions of a teacher.

The mother, known as "Witness AAA", was the first witness to speak in Townsville on day one of the historic Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability.

The mother spoke of the damage of segregation and neglect faced by her daughter at school, and of the positive impacts of quality "everyday education".

Witness AAA described to the commission how her daughter, a "happy and energetic" 13-year-old who has Down syndrome, an intellectual impairment and vision problems, was left with "severe anxiety" for months after a traumatic experience in Year 2.

The mother said the Year 2 teacher screamed at the girl in class, was seen "dragging" her down stairs, and prevented her from using the special tools, such as coloured pencils with grips, she needed.

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The girl was also segregated from the rest of her schoolmates during lunchtime, and was instead given a spot under a pillar that had a sign with her initial, "L".

The mother said this all occurred in the five days her daughter attended the Townsville state school, in which she was enrolled for just three weeks before it was decided she would be transferred.

"It became really apparent that the teacher was treating my daughter very differently to the other children in the classroom," Witness AAA said.

"She was yelling and screaming at her. Every time (my daughter) stood up, which she needed to, to pull out the drawer where all her material was stored, the teacher would scream at her, and I witnessed that, as did other parents who reported that back to me."

The mother said she had offered the Year 2 teacher a binder of information that had been built about her daughter for years, which included teaching resources and details about her needs.

"(The teacher) just pushed it back to me and said, 'I will do my own research, thanks', and didn't want to know anything about her or the resources that I had offered her," she said. "I just felt sick in the stomach."

It took 12 months after the incidents at the first school in Year 2 before the girl stopped having anxiety and her confidence returned.

After transferring schools, the situation was "totally different", the commission was told.

"(My daughter) for the first time had access to proper curriculum," the mother said.

"She got homework, she had sight words, all the typical early childhood, early years primary school stuff.

"She participated in everything. It was a very normal experience."

 

Dr Kerri Mellifont QC, Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission addresses the Townsville hearing at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability Townsville. Photo: AAP Image/Supplied, Cameron Laird
Dr Kerri Mellifont QC, Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission addresses the Townsville hearing at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability Townsville. Photo: AAP Image/Supplied, Cameron Laird

 

The four-day Townsville hearing, according to senior counsel assisting the Commission Dr Kerri Mellifont QC, would be used to "shine a light" on the "very real and pervasive issues" that students with disabilities, their parents, and carers face in the education system.

She said the submissions received so far revealed people with disabilities were not being treated as people with the "rights to an equitable education".

Witness AAA said she didn't want her daughter's disabilities to be a limiting factor, and the first step was education.

"If we don't include kids in the education system, how can we include them in the community, in the workplace?" she said.

"Students with disabilities have the right to an education in their community, not somewhere else but where they live, (and) on the same basis as their peers with access to the curriculum and appropriate adjustments."

The commission will today hear from a parent known as "Witness AAC" and two academic experts on inclusive education.