Thursday, October 29, 2009

British college student with Down syndrome barred from BBQ by vote

From This is North Devon in the UK:

A student with Down's syndrome was barred from a college barbecue after a classroom vote.

Lisa Pidner, 20, wanted to go to the event hosted by Petroc, formerly North Devon College, where she is a student.

But lecturers allowed her classmates — who also have learning difficulties — to take a vote on whether she should be invited.

The students voted to keep her out.

Lisa's mother Shirley Pidner, from Kingford, Umberleigh, is furious at the way the matter was handled.

She said: "What kind of organisation allows special needs people to decide the fate of other special needs people? It is nothing short of discrimination."

Shirley believes the reason for holding the vote was because of Lisa's diagnosed compulsive addiction.

It means she often picks up items and hides them from people.

Shirley said: "I am fully aware that this form of compulsion is annoying to others — indeed you only have to ask her family who live with it 24/7.

"But this is besides the point. This is her individual problem, the same as some students may be confined to a wheelchair."

The college would not confirm if Lisa's habit of picking things up and hiding them was the reason behind the vote.

Shirley had not been aware of any problem Lisa faced in the classroom and said she is usually "hard working, loveable and friendly", which made the situation all the more confusing.

Huw Davies, Petroc's director for curriculum and innovation, investigated the matter.
He said: "Whilst I cannot talk about the specifics of this case, my colleagues are working with a vulnerable group of adult learners.

"It can sometimes be extremely difficult to balance the needs of individual students with those of their classmates and other learners.

"On the rare occasions where issues like this arise, we are not always able to resolve them to everyone's satisfaction."

He added that the college always has the best interests of their learners at heart.
But Shirley said: "I just cannot believe that teaching staff could allow such a cruel and obviously unfair situation to even happen."

Mr Davies is due to meet Lisa's family to discuss the issue further. Lisa still attends the college.