Exclusion of an autistic boy ruled unlawful

A court has ruled that the school exclusion of an autistic boy was unlawful, despite him hitting a teaching assistant with a ruler, punching her and pulling her hair.

Known only as ‘L’, the student was given a one-and-half day exclusion following the incident in February 2016. However, the Upper Tribunal has ruled that ‘aggressive behaviour is not a choice for children with autism’, with campaigners predicting that the decision will now have a large impact on future generations of children on the autism spectrum.

The contention arises from the fact that children with disabilities that cause them have ‘a tendency to physically abuse’ are not protected by the Equality Act 2010, meaning children like L cannot challenge decisions to exclude them from school.


Judge Rowley found that this rule came ‘nowhere near striking a fair balance between the rights of children such as L on the one side and the interests of the community on the other’.

Rowley said: "In my judgment the Secretary of State has failed to justify maintaining in force a provision which excludes from the ambit of the protection of the Equality Act, children whose behaviour in school is a manifestation of the very condition which calls for special educational provision to be made for them. In that context, to my mind it is repugnant to define as 'criminal or anti-social' the effect of the behaviour of children whose condition (through no fault of their own) manifests itself in particular ways so as to justify treating them differently from children whose condition has other manifestations."

The student’s parents have said they are ‘delighted’ by the ruling, while the Department for Education says it will consider the implications of the ruling.

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