'I am not a bad boy,' says pupil with Tourette's and Asperger's syndromes punished by school for making 'inappropriate noises'|
EDINBURGH, Scotland: A private school in Edinburgh has been threatened with legal action over claims that a young boy with both Tourette's and Asperger's syndromes was punished for making "inappropriate noises."
Eileen Lettis said her ten-year-old son, Connor, was sent to the headteacher at Clifton Hall School for actions that he could not control. Connor attended the school in Newbridge for five weeks last year, before being suspended for putting his hands around another boy's throat.
He was suspected of having Tourette's syndrome when he started in September and the condition was confirmed in the first fortnight.
Following his one-day suspension in October, his mother was presented with a chart detailing his behavioural record.
She said she was shocked to see teachers' comments like: "Some reminders about inappropriate noises," "Trying to create distractions," "Inappropriate facial expressions" and "Making silly noises." One had written: "Particularly annoying in every possible way."
Mrs Lettis said: "Connor tends to make squeaky, high pitched sounds. He was getting sent out the room. They said it's for attention. It's not - it's because he can't help it."
Connor has now been moved back to his former school, St John Ogilvie Primary, in Livingston, and Mrs Lettis has consulted a solicitor and disability rights experts.
She has demanded that Clifton Hall School apologise to her son, lift the suspension from his file, agree that he was "treated less favourably" and reimburse her for uniform costs and fees paid, or else face legal action.
The 49-year-old, of Ladywell West, Livingston, said: "I want them to acknowledge what they've done to Connor. It's affected him dreadfully. He says all the time: 'I'm not a bad boy.'
"They humiliated him, he is clever enough to understand everything they've done to him. He would get sent to see the headteacher for making noises that he could not help."
And she said his suspension was the result of "horseplay" with some of the other pupils.
She said: "The other boys put their hands on him. Because of his condition, he does not have the same perception of boundaries."
Britain's National Autistic Society has urged Mrs Lettis to take legal action. An NAS adviser wrote saying: "I would urge you to contact the Disability Rights Commission and Children's Legal Services for two reasons. The way your son has been treated by the school could be considered both disability discrimination and bullying. The chart that your son's behaviour was recorded on should have been constructive and detailed in order to work out the functions of his behaviours.
"Your son's tics are also due to his disability and separating him from his peers, something that he regards as a punishment, could also be seen as discrimination."
Rod Grant, headteacher of Clifton Hall School, which has about 150 nursery and primary children aged three to 11, said he could not comment on individual cases.
"I can confirm Mr and Mrs Lettis have withdrawn the child from the school," he said. "As a school, we are perfectly capable of dealing with a wide range of special needs, and we have a wide range of special needs children in the school, as well as able children."
(Source: The Scotsman, March 27, 2007)