Engadine High rejects segregation claim of special needs student

Engadine High School has hit back at reports that one of its special needs students was ‘‘excluded’’ from going to her school formal.

Sutherland Shire mother Julie Webster posted a YouTube video of her daughter Josie, 16,  saying she was a victim of ‘‘segregation’’ at a school where ‘‘exclusion was the norm’’.

Josie, a year 10 student at the school, has Down syndrome.

Her mother uploaded a 1.27 minute video entitled a ‘‘disabled student revenge video’’.

Footage shows Josie, an enthusiastic musician, playing the drums and singing on stage.

The video went viral, and attracted thousands of comments from people outraged by the alleged incident.

Mrs Webster said her child was one of four students from the school’s special needs unit, who was not invited to the formal earlier this month, which was organised by a group of parents as a private function.

She said the formal was a fund-raiser for the special needs unit, and that there was no ‘‘respecte’’ (sic) by the ‘‘principle’’ (sic).

Parents from the school’s support unit, who contacted the Leader said they were upset and disappointed with the coverage that was broadcast on national television.

‘‘We’re not in agreement with what was said,’’ Lynn Hodder, one of the grandparents said.

‘‘The intention for all year 10 students to be invited was there.

‘‘Our children from time to time, their notes don’t always make it home.

‘‘That’s what our kids do...they don’t always relay things to us.

She said it was ‘‘disgraceful’’ how the school was ‘‘bombarded’’ with criticism.

‘‘It’s a fantastic school.’’

‘‘The year 10 students are beside themselves,’’ she said.

Principal, Joanne Jarvis, said she felt ‘‘bullied and assaulted’’ by the negative backlash the school received.

‘‘It’s been the most trying and taxing time of my career,’’ Mrs Jarvis said.

‘‘I’ve got a son in year 10...what is really hard, is not only keeping my emotions in check, but having to come back to school to be a leader who, when confronted with adversity, is a resilient model to kids.’’

She said the social media backlash was ‘‘disturbing.’’

‘‘The people whose opinions really matter are the ones from my school community, who have been a huge support,’’ she said.

‘‘We’ve had ex-students posting wonderful comments online, so I’ve started to pick myself up.

Engadine High School earlier responded to the criticism with a statement on its website, saying the media inaccurately reported on the matter.

‘‘Notes were distributed to students in year 10 including students in the support unit on a number of occasions during roll call,’’  the statement read.

‘‘The school has been assured by other year 10 parents of the support unit that they received the notes and invitation. 

‘‘The event also had its Facebook page publicly available. 

‘‘As such, this occasion was a matter for individual students and their families to decide if they wished to attend.’’

See more in the Leader.