Disabled students are 'bullied and neglected'
Australians must "open their eyes" to the desperate plight of the disabled and the need for equitable education, not just on paper but in hearts and minds.
The disability royal commission has been urged to "steel its resolve" to uncover violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation to force transformational change for the disabled.
Counsel assisting Kerri Mellifont QC said the evidence in the Townsville hearings had been confronting.
The commission heard of disabled children being physically attacked by bullies and misunderstood by teachers.
Of a girl with Asperger's syndrome, tormented by her classmates, cowering in a rubbish bin.
An autistic boy so scared, he armed himself with a knife for protection. Students denied toilet breaks, with non-verbal students forced to sit in their own urine when teachers refused a visit to the bathroom.
"(The evidence) has emphasised the critical importance of not devaluing a student with a disability, of not lowering the expectations of what that student can do or what that student can achieve," Dr Mellifont said.
"It has highlighted the critical importance of "opening of the eyes of the Australian people to the profound and demonstrated benefits of equitable education for all students", she said, and an inclusive culture "not just on paper but in the hearts and minds of our governments, our educators, and our community".
It heard that disabled students just wanted to feel normal.
"We need to stop trying to make our children normal and acknowledge what is normal for them," one parent wrote.
"We are lucky our brains are flexible, theirs are not. What is weird is we have the flexible brain but we refuse to change our thinking." Almost one in five Queensland public school students has a disability, the commission heard.
Of the almost 561,000 students enrolled in Queensland public schools in 2019 more than 103,000 have a disability.
Another 35,000 disabled students are enrolled at independent schools. One mum said that while there were "amazing" teachers in the system, many of them do not want disabled children in the classroom.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to meet the needs of disabled students, Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said on Tuesday. "One of the issues that is plain in the classrooms right around Queensland is that the expectations of a single teacher are often beyond the capacity of a single human being to deliver," Mr Bates said.
However, special school educators admitted some teachers are "resisting diversity" with at least one school in Queensland keeping disabled students in segregated classes.
Commission chair Ronald Sackville QC has vowed to methodically examine if Australia is living up to UN conventions safeguarding the human rights of people living with a disability.
The first Townsville public hearings of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability closed on Thursday. The commission will reconvene for public hearings into group homes in Melbourne in December.