Angry mother sues after children told to

Bridie Smith
September 17, 2007

A FAMILY whose three children were told to leave a Catholic primary school against their will earlier this year is suing the Catholic Education Office, alleging discrimination and bullying.

Altona mother Vida Benic lodged a discrimination complaint with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission last week, which centres on the treatment of her son Stefan, 12, who has a severe language disorder.

The claim names both the Catholic Education Office and Father Ian Ranson from St Martin de Porres Primary School in Laverton.

In May, the school enrolled the siblings at another primary school without the parents’ consent. Anti-discrimination consultant Julie Phillips said she was concerned Stefan’s language disorder was the reason the children — aged 12, nine and seven — had effectively been told to leave.

The school backed down on the move, however, after media reports.

Mrs Benic claims the school was aware of Stefan’s language disorder but failed to ensure he got the classroom assistance he needed to keep up with his peers. She said Stefan, who has been at the school since prep, was “virtually unable to read and write confidently” by the time he started grade 5.

She said the school had also failed to protect Stefan, now in grade 6, from bullying by peers and that attempting to remove the three children from the school not only discriminated against her son because of his language disorder but against his siblings as well.

“Children with language disorders can and will succeed given the right support,” she said. “And I won’t allow him to be shunted away in a corner and forgotten.”

Mrs Benic said if it wasn’t for Stefan’s love of sport, where he has won school cross-country and swimming awards, his confidence would have been shattered.

Mrs Benic said she was also seeking to secure academic support for her son when he moves into secondary school next year.

Catholic Education Office assistant director David Huggins said the office had been working with the family for a number of months to try to resolve the issues.

He said he was surprised and disappointed that the case had been taken to the courts.

“We have been looking at ways to establish a working relationship between the family and the program needs of their boy,” he said.

“And we’ve done that with goodwill.”

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