Salisbury School threatens legal action

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Salisbury School is threatening to take legal action against the Minister of Education Hon Hekia Parata should she decide to close the school.

Salisbury is awaiting Parata’s interim decision of whether or not the school will be closed at the end of term two. Consultation started in June 2016.

From left, one of Salisbury School's currrent students Poppy Clayton, 14, stands beside former students Dora Daniel and Kay Hansen at the school's centenary celebrations last year.
From left, one of Salisbury School’s currrent students Poppy Clayton, 14, stands beside former students Dora Daniel and Kay Hansen at the school’s centenary celebrations last year.

The school is the only national single-sex residential school for girls with intellectual disabilities and currently has 10 students.

This would be the second time the Minister has faced Salisbury-related legal action in four years. She first attempted to close the school in 2012 but lost in the High Court.

Board Chair John Kane says human rights legal expert Andrew Butler strongly advises that the closure of the school would be a breach of human rights.

John Kane says the advice points to the Ministry of Education’s Intensive Wraparound Service (IWS) policy as discriminatory against a group of high needs students under the terms of either the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act or the Human Rights Act, or both.

“It has been extremely upsetting to learn recently of how many families continue to battle to get into the IWS, or have been told by Ministry of Education or IWS staff over the past two years that Salisbury is closing so ‘there is no point asking to be enrolled there,’” he says.

“Their rights to choose the school that best meets the needs of their daughters have been clearly breached; first there are those who can’t get into IWS at all, despite their proven high needs, and then if they do get in, after what is often a two-year battle, they are prevented from coming to Salisbury.”

John says legal advice makes it clear the Minister’s proposal to close Salisbury does not reach the high bar set by Justice Dobson in the High Court in 2012 and that it would most likely be found to be unlawful.

“It appears that only the Ministry supports our closure,” says John.

The Ministry has advised a decision about the school’s future will be made before the end of Term One.

Meanwhile, the school encourages parents and educationalists from across New Zealand to come forward with their stories of trying but failing to get a student into the IWS. Please email your situation and contact details to [email protected]