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17-year-old Brie Crosweller was told taking dance would affect the grades of other students. (Photo: Nicole Barratt)

Rangitoto College told a student with cerebral palsy she would affect the grades of other students if she studied NCEA Dance. 

At a parent-teacher interview in August 2014, Brie Crosweller, 17, said she and her father were told level two dance “wouldn’t be wise” for Brie due to her disability.

The 17-year-old has hemiplegic cerebral palsy which affects her balance and fine motor movement on the left side of her body.

The teacher said it was unlikely Crosweller would pass the NCEA practical internals, which require students to dance in a group.

Crosweller and her mother organised a meeting with Rangitoto College’s Head of Learning Support following the warning at the interview.

Crosweller said she was told at the meeting: “If you take dance at level two, you’ll probably affect other students’ grades and we don’t want that happening.”

She picked up NCEA photography instead, but said she felt forced into the decision.

Rangitoto College’s Acting Principal Don Hastie said: “I’m not going to comment on individual cases, but we do work with students to accommodate them as we can.”

The Ministry of Education’s National Curriculum Statements say schools must ensure teaching and learning programmes help all students meet the requirements of the New Zealand Curriculum.

Katrina Casey, head of sector enablement and support at the Ministry, said: “Although we can’t comment on this individual case, we would welcome the opportunity, with the approval of the student, to be involved and to work through whatever concerns she and her family might have alongside the school.”

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission states disabled children have the same right to education as any other child.

If schools treat disabled students less favourably than other students, a complaint of unlawful discrimination can be made under the Human Rights Act 1993.

Dr. Hickey, scholar of disabilities research and legal theory, says more education is needed in working with students with disabilities.

Dr. Hickey says: “[Crosweller’s situation] shows how shortsighted the school are in dance when they cannot consider someone with disabilities. Given many disabled do and can engage in dance just shows the teacher to be lacking insight into disability.”

Crosweller has since moved schools.

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