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The BBC's Gary O'Donaghue
"It will now be for the courts to decide"
 real 56k

Thursday, 19 October, 2000, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
School sued over diabetic ban
Diabetic Tom White
Diabetic Tom White has been banned from school trips
A grammar school is facing legal action after stopping a diabetic pupil from going on school trips overseas.

Clitheroe Royal Grammar School in Lancashire is to be taken to court in what is believed to be the first case of its kind, after refusing to take 15-year-old Tom White on a trip to France.

There is no justification for this. A disabled pupil should have access to the same opportunities as everyone else.

Bert Massie, Disability Rights Commission

The legal action, to be taken by the Disability Rights Commission, will claim the ban on the diabetic pupil is "blatantly unfair" and a form of unlawful discrimination.

The decision not to take the pupil on the school trip followed a severe hypoglycaemic attack on a previous school trip abroad - in which the sugar in Tom's bloodstream fell, making him dizzy and causing him to pass out. It was his first such attack.


His parents say the school is acting out of ignorance of the condition and say his twice daily insulin injections can keep the diabetes under control. They say the ban has been extremely hurtful for their son.

Bert Massie
Bert Massie says that the travel ban is in breach of anti-discrimination legislation

"Tom is devastated by the ban. It is totally unfair to stop him from going on trips with his friends and other pupils just because he has diabetes," said his father Malcolm.

"We have tried every channel to get the school to change their minds but they have chosen to ignore the medical, educational and legal experts.

"We thought that as soon as they heard from an expert, that would be the end of the matter, but they wouldn't talk to the expert.

"It's an arrogance and conceit which is beyond anything that I have ever come across. They are totally defiant that they will not lose."

Teachers' fears

The Disability Rights Commission's chairman Bert Massie has supported the parents' complaints against the ban - and the campaign group is seeking to apply anti-discrimination regulations previously unused for education.

"There is no justification for this. A disabled pupil should have access to the same opportunities as everyone else. It highlights the urgency to put the education system squarely within the bounds of anti-discrimination law," he said.

The school's head teacher, Stuart Holt, has declined to comment on the claims until after the court case.

But Mr Holt's letter to Tom's parents explaining the ban said he would support teachers who felt "unwilling or unable" to be responsible for the pupil.

Mr Holt said when the pupil had suffered the previous hypoglycaemic attack, teachers "had difficulty in opening his mouth since his jaw had locked when he passed out".

"In view of this incident I am unwilling for Thomas to join any extra-curricular visits where the organising teacher is unwilling or unable to take this responsibility," Mr Holt had written.

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