The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has held that the right to education of an autistic child was not violation by denying him access to mainstream schooling.
In this case the mother of an autistic child applied to the Commission for Rights and Autonomy of Disabled Persons in France for a referral to mainstream school with special assistance. This was refused and a referral was made to an Institut medico-éducatif, which provides for special health and educational needs. The mother appealed this decision, however it was maintained that the child’s attendance in mainstream school over a trial period had been difficult.
The mother lodged a complaint under Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) that the French authorities had refused to allow her child attend mainstream school. This was coupled with Article 14, that the State had failed to fulfil its positive obligation to take the necessary measures for disabled children and that the lack of education in itself constituted discrimination.
The Court emphasised the importance of the right to education, particularly inclusive education for the integration of all children in society. The Court was of the view, however, that the resources available were often limited and it was not its role to decide how they should be deployed. This fell to the national authorities, which had to have due regard to the impact of choices made for the most vulnerable groups.
The Court found that French law prioritised the education of autistic children in a mainstream setting and provided the conditions required to meet special educational needs. In the case at hand, however, the authorities had found the child’s condition to be an obstacle and had opted for an education that was tailored to his needs.
The Court therefore held that the refusal to admit the child to a mainstream school did not constitute a failure by the State to fulfil its obligations under Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 or a systematic negation of his right to education on account of his disability. The Court also found the complaint of discrimination unsubstantiated.
Click here for the decision in Dupin v France (in French).