THE Education Department will spend up to $500,000 on legal fees fighting a discrimination case brought by a deaf boy denied a classroom interpreter.
The boy's mother, Robyn Beasley, believes an interpreter would cost about $35,000, but says the department would rather spend hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting her son Dylan in court.
The case is one of several disability discrimination cases pending against the department, which has prompted a scathing attack on the troubled program by Deaf Children Australia.
The organisation's chief executive officer, Damian Lacey, said the Government was dragging its heels on long-overdue reforms, forcing parents to resort to legal action.
Mr Lacey said individual schools clearly were unable to obtain the resources they needed from the department to provide basic classroom supports, such as full-time trained staff.
"While continuous reviews are held, each with their own set of recommendations, families report not much change on the ground as services to children with disabilities continue to deteriorate," he said.
"At the same time, the department and the minister seem content to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending the results of their inadequately resourced systems."
The Education Department and a spokesman for Education Services Minister Jacinta Allen declined to comment on the case, as it is before the courts.
But a department spokesman said different deaf children had different communication needs, so the supports provided varied according to parents' beliefs and preferences, and their school's assessment of the best approach.
The spokesman said the department was committed to expenditure that best met its students' needs.
Dylan Beasley is profoundly deaf and was using Auslan, the only recognised sign language in Australia, before he began school.
But as a student at Pearcedale Primary School, he was taught by teachers with various signing skills, including some who could not sign at all, and none fluent in Auslan.
Mrs Beasley said her son was unable to fully understand what was happening in the classroom. She wants a commitment from the department to provide the rest of his education in full-time Auslan, remedial tuition, and compensation.
Recent cases in Queensland and the ACT under national discrimination laws have set precedents for schools to provide Auslan.
The department has a QC, a junior barrister, the private law firm Minter Ellison, and an in-house lawyer appearing in the case. With three days of hearings so far and another 15 scheduled in November, Dylan Beasley's barrister, James Gray, estimates that the department could easily spend $500,000 on legal costs.