Auckland school apologises after turning away special needs child

  • 18/08/2017
Auckland school apologises after turning away special needs child
Photo credit: Getty

An Auckland school has apologised to a mother after turning away her child with cerebral palsy because he needs to be tube fed.

Four-year-old Phoenix Suttie cannot walk or talk, and needs to be fed through a tube, which takes around four minutes to do.

"He's very cute, has a good sense of humour… the lights are on in there but he just has trouble communicating," his mother Arna Suttie says.

The school, which Newshub has decided not to name, has satellite classrooms designed to take on kids with special needs. By law they are obliged to accept students like Phoenix.

But when Ms Suttie told the deputy principal that Phoenix needs to be fed through a tube "that was pretty much the end of the conversation", she says.

"It's a pretty emotional time for a parent of a normal kid but for us it's even more so, so it was pretty devastating to hear that from someone at a high position in a special school.

"You don't get the feeling that he fits in in a place like that, so where do we go?"

The deputy principal's justification was that the feeding would require "extra resources and extra staffing", but Ms Suttie says this is not the case.

"It could seem quite daunting if you don't know anything about it, but once you're used to it it's as easy as feeding someone with a spoon."

Ministry of Education head of learning support David Wales says he's "disappointed" to hear of Phoenix's experience.

"You want to know when your child starts school you've got a school that really wants your child to be there.

"We will visit the school next week to talk about how they could accommodate special needs kids."

In their apology the school said the deputy principal was having "a particularly busy day" so did not prepare for the meeting as well as she should have.

But Mr Suttie says it's made any future enrolment meetings more intimidating.

"I'm way too scared to go to a mainstream school now."