An Auckland school is going to court so it doesn't have to take back a difficult student who has Asperger's syndrome.

This is a situation that has never been tested before in court. It touches on a parent's wish that their child be placed in a mainstream education environment, versus a school's desire - and indeed its right - to teach children without disruption.

I wonder if, for some parents, the concept of "mainstream" is seen as a comforting nirvana. That somehow, through the process of osmosis, being in a regular classroom will on some primary level steady their child, who may have learning difficulties or behavioural difficulties, stemming from a mental health condition.

I would tend to agree that mainstream works fairly well if the support is in place, and by "support" I mean a lot of it.


The problem is, schools would have a massive list of things needed in an ideal world, and support staff would be pretty high up there - along with more funding for resources, staff, maintenance, equipment, extra-curricular activities and transport.

So this court case really reflects the lack of resourcing given to education in New Zealand. I think it's a good argument for a court, because it will be a landmark case, and if the court does decide the school must take the boy back, that could draw heat on the Government if the court also notes the inability of schools to resource for difficult students under their current funding. It's an opportunity for a judge to comment, for the record, on what the Government is failing to do.

I've tended to think that the IHC have unrealistic goals for students with mental health conditions, but they have their agenda and I can't blame them for pursuing it. But on the basis of human rights, versus the needs of the majority to have a good learning environment, that will be interesting. If the school says: we can't handle this student, the court will ask why? Hopefully the school will say, this is what we have in place, this is the money for resources. It's not enough to handle this situation. The court may force the issue, but I hope it will make a societal comment. Nothing is more worthwhile than educating our children - all of them.