Landmark Decision: First vindication for parents who saw their child expelled from a private school

A court issued a temporary injunction for a student to continue attending the private school’s gymnasium (middle school) where he was already enrolled, despite the opposition of the school’s director.

The parents of a child on the autism spectrum sought legal recourse to keep their son in the private school he was already attending. This was because the school considered it impossible for the child to be present in the gymnasium classes, a claim that the parents successfully disputed in practice.

Let’s take it from the beginning.

In November 2022, when the previous school year was still ongoing, the parents of the student (whose full details are available to NEWS 24/7) submitted an application for their son’s enrollment in the next grade. The first rejection from the school (Synchroni Paideia in Vyronas) came as a shock to them, as it was clearly stated that the child’s inability to follow the curriculum was the reason.

The reasons for the child’s rejection were sent to the parents in writing in December 2022. However, to their credit, the parents persisted because they knew that the best choice for their son was to continue in a familiar school environment where he had developed remarkable social skills and unique abilities.

After a significant amount of time passed without a response, the school sent an email to the child, informing him about the tuition fees for the next school year. Therefore, the parents assumed that the school had changed its position. However, in June, the school reiterated its refusal.

The Ombudsman’s Intervention:

The parents promptly informed the Ombudsman for Children about the situation. After reviewing the case, the Ombudsman sent a letter to the school (protocol number 337845/33408/2003), the central conclusion of which was that the child could continue his studies in the gymnasium, as it was in his best interest (in accordance with Article 3, paragraph 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child).

Moreover, Law 4074/2012 explicitly states that member states must take all necessary measures to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability by any person, organization, or private company.

The school persisted in its refusal to the Ombudsman in late July, claiming that it did not have the capacity to provide learning support for the child. They even cited the non-binding opinion of KEDASY (Center for Special Education and Psychological Support), which had never been requested by the parents before, as the parents allege.

There was no other option but to resort to the judiciary, which, albeit belatedly, issued a temporary injunction allowing the child to attend his favorite school.

Specifically, on September 6th, the court issued a temporary injunction, stating that “the school must temporarily accept the application for the enrollment of the child of the applicants until the hearing of the application by the appointed court.”  

Two days later, the parents received a notice from Synchroni Paideia, requesting them to provide a series of documents regarding the “special assistants” (note that these assistants are paid for by the parents) before their child can be accepted into the school!

How the parents will gather all these documents over the weekend for their child to attend school on Monday is unknown. The school, in response, emphasized that the child should attend a special school and that the educational process in the gymnasium is entirely different. It is important to note that if the court makes a different decision in December, the student will have to change his school environment.

NEWS 24/7, as required, gave the floor to the school’s director, Charalampos Kyraïlidis, who told us that they will accept the student as decided by the court, temporarily, and will do their best until the trial takes place.

In the end, as always, the conclusion belongs to the reader. The important thing is that the family was vindicated in court despite the obstacles, and the child will continue in the same learning environment, at least temporarily.

However, the child’s educational specialist, in a pedagogical report in April 2023, wrote that “the student is consistent, cheerful, fully adapted to the class environment, beloved by his classmates, and has a supportive interdisciplinary team alongside him.”

In the end, as always, the conclusion belongs to the reader. The important thing is that the family was vindicated in court despite the obstacles, and the child will continue in the same learning environment, at least temporarily.

Source: News 24/7

8 children with autism, without a companion! – What is the responsible ministry doing, what does the Limassol School Inspectorate say

Since September 11th, when schools opened, until today, in the special education unit of the primary school in Limassol, parents and the teacher of the eight children have been waiting in vain for an escort.

The latest update-commitment states that today (Wednesday) a companion is expected to go to school for the first day, but the parents are fed up with the promises, emphasizing that ‘one escort is not enough for eight children.’ The School District of Limassol is aware of the issue and fully agrees with the parents, with its president, Dinos Ellinas, stating to ‘Π’ that the District simply implements the decisions of the Ministry, while sending a message about the need to fill other positions.

“Unfortunately, we have been experiencing a mockery here for ten days since the schools opened,” says Nadia, a mother of a first-grade elementary school child, which affects her child. “We have reached the point of wondering whether our children should go to school or whether it is better to keep them at home for everyone’s safety,” she adds with evident disappointment. “They tell us every day that someone will come as an escort tomorrow. The teacher of our children is a hero who manages to cope with this situation, but she can’t go on any longer.” As she explained to us, this is a Special Education class where all eight children are on the autism spectrum, which significantly affects their daily routines. “These children cannot go to the toilet, wear diapers, do not speak to others, cannot take care of themselves, they need special treatment to be able to participate in the school’s daily activities. We are not asking for anything more, just to provide 2-3 escorts so that they can go to school normally.”

As has been reported to “Π”, the same situation prevails in at least two other similar units in Limassol, which still remain without escorts. The problems caused are enormous, as teachers are forced to perform escort duties during their free periods, taking children to the toilet or feeding and caring for them, which is not their responsibility. At the same time, there is a risk for the other children, as it is extremely difficult for an educator to cope, especially with issues that are the responsibility of escorts.

The president of the School Board, Dinos Ellinas, in communication we had with him, acknowledged the serious problem that exists. “It’s a paradox we face every year, even though we know the need for escorts, the Ministry of Education always approves fewer positions, and afterwards we try to find solutions with additional positions,” he commented initially, adding that “we are tormenting parents, children, and educators.” This issue must be resolved by covering all the real needs, he said, emphasizing that “as a School Board, whenever we have approval for a position, we pay for it immediately.”

Source: Politis

Talking to children about disabilities

The chapter on “disability” is large, and it might be challenging to explain to children. It requires patience and delicate handling. Why someone is disabled, what this means for them and those around them, how it happened, and why, how they feel, and how different their life is – these are all important questions to address.

And ultimately, how should we behave towards them, differently or “normally”? Children have a natural curiosity and often express thoughts and words without filtering them. It’s important to discuss the topic of disabilities with them and help them better understand that there are people around us who speak, behave, or move a little differently.

People with special abilities. This could even apply to our own child who might wonder why they are not like the other children. It’s important to recognize and emphasize that being different is not a bad thing; quite the opposite. However, we should teach our children not to use words that belittle, single out, or target a person to describe their disability. Apart from being impolite, it lacks understanding and empathy. Just as our child is hurt when they are teased, spoken to rudely, or targeted, the same goes for other children and adults.

The points to emphasize when explaining to your child what a disability is or what it means are:

  1. Some people are born with disabilities, or they may experience an injury or accident during their lifetime and may not return to their previous state.
  2. A physical disability does not automatically mean a cognitive disability! Make it clear to children that someone’s body may be different, but their mind, thoughts, and emotions remain alert.

People with disabilities are not sick, and in no case is this “difference” contagious.

Explain to children that sometimes people with disabilities may use special equipment. They might have a wheelchair, crutches, wear hearing aids, etc.

Show them the designated parking spots, specially designed sidewalks, and support bars. Teach children that we should respect these places a little more, and in no case should we exploit them, violate them, or block access with our bicycles or vehicles.

Source: Φilenews

The children of the Summer School at the Technological University of Cyprus (TΕΠΑΚ) stepped into the shoes of people with disabilities (PWDs)

Event aiming to inform and raise awareness about the fundamental right of people with disabilities (PWD) to participate equally in all aspects of life, as well as the elimination of stereotypes, prejudices, and social exclusion of these individuals, organized by the Technological University of Cyprus (TUC) and the Center for Education and Rehabilitation “EXIST.”

The event took place today, Tuesday, July 25, 2023, as part of the Summer School of the Technological University of Cyprus (TEPAC), which hosts children of university employees, aged 5 to 13 years old.

The children had the opportunity to step into the shoes of people with disabilities (PWD) and participate in a series of experiential activities, sports events, and interactive games aimed at understanding and familiarizing themselves with the values of mutual respect, inclusion, equality, and respect for diversity. These are the values that the Technological University of Cyprus (TUC) promotes and advocates through its actions and policies.

These activities helped the children, who participated enthusiastically, to understand the daily life from the perspective of a person with a disability and the challenges they face, sending the message that we can coexist and move forward together without discrimination and obstacles against people with disabilities, who are an integral part of our society.

The event also highlighted the recognition of the skills, abilities, and qualifications of people with disabilities and emphasized the need for accepting their rights, ensuring their accessibility to all spaces, and, in general, building a more inclusive society for everyone.

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