The reported suspension of 10-year old autistic student - Free Speech Union of Australia

The reported suspension of 10-year old autistic student

Sunday Oct 15 2023 at 11:00 AM

The Free Speech Union of Australia (FSU) is a non-profit organisation that aims to protect and promote the Free Speech rights of our members and Australians more broadly. We are most concerned about a reported suspension of a student at Manor Lakes school.

It was reported that a 10-year old autistic student was suspended from your school after expressing concerns about a female-identifying student using the female bathrooms. The asserted justification for the suspension is based on the speech of the student in question posing 'a danger, whether actual, perceived, or threatened, to the health, safety or wellbeing of any person.'

The FSU considers the student to have been seriously wronged by this decision as it infringes their human rights (and is therefore potentially unlawful) in several important ways. Our letter has pointed out that:

  • 'The insistence that the student not express concerns or questions about someone with 'boy parts' using the female bathrooms amounts to a policy of compelled speech.'

  • 'The suspension of this student cannot be justified on the grounds given as nothing said by the student can be said to 'pose a danger'. By contrast, it would likely be considered protected speech under existing anti-discrimination law and anti-victimisation provisions.'

  • 'This action by the school could also amount to unlawful discrimination on the basis of her disability, including a failure to make reasonable adjustments.'

  • 'By adopting a practice that punishes speech, the school's policy could be considered to be one that systematically discriminates against neurodiverse students that may have particular difficulty expressing themselves within strictures imposed upon them.'

  • 'In line with the recent findings by the Royal Commission on Disability, we expect a full recognition of the duty to make reasonable adjustments for neurodiverse students. ... By opting to exclude this student as punishment ... the school has acted in a worryingly regressive manner and demonstrated that it is intolerant of neurodiverse students.'

We have asked that this situation be urgently corrected. Please see our full letter to the School Principal below:

Please download here: [Full response (PDF)]