A Sheffield-based equalities activist has welcomed a 'ground breaking' court ruling that the exclusion of an autistic boy for aggressive behaviour was unlawful.
Judge Alison Rowley ruled children with special needs who have been excluded from schools for aggressive behaviour linked to their condition are being discriminated against.
Sitting in the upper tribunal, she said it was 'repugnant' to consider such behaviour as 'criminal or antisocial' when it was a direct result of a child’s condition and 'not a choice'.
The tribunal in London upheld an appeal involving a 13-year-old boy with special educational needs who had been excluded from school because of aggressive behaviour that was linked to his autism.
The judge said schools should not be prevented from excluding children where it can be demonstrated that it is 'proportionate' to do so.
But she found that a regulation under the Equality Act 2010, which lets schools exclude pupils for such behaviour without justification, is unlawful and incompatible with Human Rights laws.
The tribunal heard the rule affects tens of thousands of children with conditions including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Director of Equalities and Human Rights UK Chrissy Meleady described the ruling as 'groundbreaking'.
She said: "For far too long we have been seeing children and young people here in Sheffield, in South Yorkshire and in other parts of the UK, being subjected to official and unofficial exclusions arising from them on the one hand not being recognised as being disabled, while on the other hand being treated adversely by way of having punitive measures being enforced against them because of actions that arise due to their impairments.
"The judgement does not mean that where it is proportionate and necessary to exclude a child or young person, this is permissible but the requirement that was always there to make reasonable adjustments to try to prevent or manage challenging behaviours, and to justify any exclusion as being proportionate has not been always evident in cases where children and young people with autism have been excluded officially or unofficially over the years."
The Department for Education said it will consider the implications of the ruling.