Family celebrates school decision

By John Maslin of the Wanganui Chronicle -
Hekia Parata has been admonished for trying to close a special needs school for girls. Photo / Michael Craig
Hekia Parata has been admonished for trying to close a special needs school for girls. Photo / Michael Craig

A High Court decision overthrowing an attempt to close a girls' special needs school in Nelson is being celebrated by one Wanganui family whose daughter is enrolled there.

In a reserved judgment, Justice Robert Dobson said Education Minister Hekia Parata unlawfully tried to close Salisbury School by disregarding warnings the girls would face greater risks of sexual abuse.

Justice Dobson said Ms Parata's order to close the school was unlawful because it relied on the possibility of sending some girls to live at Halswell School in Christchurch - a boys' special needs school.

The minister had argued there was no evidence to suggest handicapped adolescent girls would be more vulnerable if moved together with boys, but Justice Dobson said seeing the risks took "no great leap in logic".

Wanganui mother Lynne (who cannot be named to protect the identity of her daughter) said the result was "amazing" for her daughter, who has Aspergers syndrome.

"My husband and I opened a special bottle of wine we had been keeping to either celebrate or commiserate with the court's decision," Lynne said.

"I'm just the happiest woman in Wanganui today," she told the Chronicle.

"It's such a weight off our minds, The relief is huge because our girl has a chance now.

"It's an amazing outcome for the girls and the staff and for the board who had worked so hard for the girls at the school."

She said while the Minister could appeal the decision, school supporters were hoping that would not be an outcome.

"You can't put vulnerable girls with boys. It's that simple," Lynne said.

She said the court battle had come at a cost, and she was hoping Government would front up with compensation.

She said while it did not secure Salisbury School forever, it meant it would stay open at least for another year.

"Our girl will be back there at the start of the new school year which means she will complete her two years there and another year will make a huge difference for her," Lynne said.

She said her daughter cannot go into mainstream schools without the same intensive support she received at Salisbury.

She said in the one year her daughter had been enrolled, her reading ability had lifted from that of a six-year-old to that of a 10-year-old.

She said another major concern for her and her husband was the prospect of getting involved in the intensive wraparound service (IWS) being promoted by the ministry as an alternative.

"The wraparound is a half-arsed attempt to give these girls an education. It may work for some but we know it won't work for our daughter.

"Hopefully, when she comes home at the end of next year she'll have enough social skills to take care of herself more than she can now."

For more articles from this region, go to

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 01 Oct 2014 20:40:29 Processing Time: 462ms