Teachers attempt to bar disabled girl over parent stress

Teachers at a Victorian Catholic school served a notice - now withdrawn - under occupational health laws seeking to bar a student with cerebral palsy from attending the school because her parents "interfered" with teachers' duties, a paper reports.

The Herald-Sun reports that cerebral palsy sufferer Morgan Webb Liddle's teachers took extraordinary legal steps to bar her because they felt stressed and harassed.

The teachers at Sacred Heart College, Kyneton served a notice on the acting principal under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, ordering that Morgan not attend school and that Merell Liddle and John Webb not contact them.

According to the Herald-Sun, provisional improvement notices are commonly issued when buildings are unsafe and the physical health and safety of staff and students is at risk, but the Act also covers risks to psychological health.

Morgan, 15, has now been staying at home for two weeks.

Ms Liddle said Morgan was being discriminated against because her disability meant teachers had to do extra work.

She said she and her husband had not harassed the year 8 teachers, and had only wanted to ensure that Morgan was healthy and her special needs were being met.

She complained to the school once last year, when a teacher had not modified work for Morgan, but otherwise addressed all problems with Morgan's special education team, who "do a fantastic job".

Ms Liddle said she was "shocked and mystified" by the notice, issued on 10 May.

It reads in part: "The actions of Mr Webb and Ms Liddle ... have unduly interfered with the duties of Morgan's teachers and carers to the point where their psychological health is endangered.

"Until a formal agreement is reached . . . regarding appropriate contact-communication, Morgan is not to attend the college and her parents are not to contact her teachers and carers."

After a meeting with a WorkSafe inspector on 16 May, the school wrote to the family on 25 May.

While no longer banning Morgan, the letter from principal John Arthurson says her parents must have no electronic communication with the school, other than to advise of her non-attendance.

They must also not meet staff outside regular interviews about Morgan's progress and monthly one-hour meetings with a specialist support teacher. Any extraordinary meetings must be arranged, and would be minuted.

Ms Liddle said Morgan's condition made that impractical.

"Morgan has very complex needs," she said.

"She wants to be at school with her friends, but it is clear that some teachers just don't want to have that added responsibility of teaching a student with a disability."

Mr Arthurson said the notice had been withdrawn, and Morgan was welcome back.

"It is her family who are choosing not to send her to school," he said.

Mr Arthurson would not reveal the nature of the teachers' complaints and said Morgan's family was welcome to contact him at any time.

Teachers ban disabled girl (Herald-Sun, 4/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Sacred Heart College Kyneton
Victorian WorkCover Authority

Parish priest sends students to another school (CathNews, 18/5/07)
Adelaide Archbishop's prayers for disabled (CathNews, 5/12/05)

4 Jun 2007