A MUM was left fuming after her eight-year-old daughter with a rare-condition was forced to wear nappies to school because there were no toilets.
Violet Heasley, who suffers with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, was the only wheelchair user at Dunmurry Primary School where she attended for two years.
Violet Heasley had to use nappies because her school didn’t have the proper toilet facilitiesCredit: Pacemaker
Violet’s mum Shelbie said the whole ordeal was humiliating and undignifiedCredit: Pacemaker
As there was no suitable toilet for her, Violet had no choice but to wear a nappy at the school in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
But her mum Shelbie Heasley has slammed her daughter’s experience for being so stressful that she had to remove her from the school.
Shelbie said: “She was humiliated there was no dignity for her- she didn’t feel like she was like anybody else.
“It was just awful. Where was her dignity?
“She did not return after the initial school closures due to Covid.
“We were told that the toilet was approved, and necessary works would be carried out, but these weren’t completed while Violet attended as a pupil at the school.”
It took months of hard work and persistence to find an alternative school that could accommodate her daughter’s needs, said Shelbie.
The eight year old has since changed school with her parents saying she is thriving.
The mum continued: “Since moving school – she’s thriving, a social butterfly. At her old school she was very withdrawn – it’s like night and day.
“Securing her new school place wasn’t an easy process either. I believe it was a result of our persistence, hard work and a lot of stress.”
Dunmurry Primary School has since expressed regret for any upset to Violet and her parents.
And the school has since installed an accessible toilet and committed to ensure that its policies, practices and procedures conform to equality legislation.
The school will also liaise with the Equality Commission, which supported Violet’s parents in taking the case.
Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission, Geraldine McGahey, said: “Starting school should be time of excitement for pupils and their families.
“But for pupils with disabilities, it can prove to be a distressing experience for them and their families when they are concerned that schools cannot meet their needs.
“Violet was and still is traumatised by her experience – of having to be made to feel different.”
“We are acutely aware of the challenges faced by many parents of children with disabilities or with special educational needs to secure an appropriate place at a school.”
She continued: “I am delighted to hear that Violet has settled into her new school and is enjoying school life.
“The Commission believes every child must have equality of access to a quality educational experience and must be given the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. This remains the case even when times are difficult and budgets tight.”
Asked about why it took so long for the school to install an accessible toilet, Ms McGahey said it wasn’t a budget or Covid-related issue,
“This goes back to 2018, 2019, before Covid when budgets were not under the same pressure they are now, there’s still no real explanation apart from using Covid to why it took so long to get the work undertaken.”
Violet’s case was taken by her parents on her behalf to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
No financial compensation is available where a claim of discrimination is found.