01-08-2009, 12:42 PM
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Deaf Girl Wins Discrimination Case
Deaf girl who couldn't hear teachers telling her to stop running during sports day wins discrimination case | Mail Online
Deaf girl who couldn't hear teachers telling her to stop running during sports day wins discrimination case
Humiliated: Laura Trudgill, 13, was not given an individual signer during sports day and could not hear announcements which told her to stop running
A deaf teenager has won a landmark discrimination case after she was humiliated on sports day because she could not hear announcements telling her to stop running, it has emerged.
Laura Trudgill, 13, is profoundly deaf but was not provided with an individual signer on sports day to help her understand the complicated rules of 24 team activities.
She stood when the rest of the school sat, ran when others stopped and did activities incorrectly because she could not hear the teacher telling her she was wrong.
The event was designed to forge bonds between deaf and hearing pupils but led to deep embarrassment for Laura who became an object of fun.
A special education needs and disability tribunal (Sendist) found Colman Middle School, in Norwich, had unlawfully discriminated against Laura.
Laura's mother Karen Park, 35, and dad Gary Trudgill, 50, of Norwich, fought the case with the backing of the National Deaf Children's Society (NCDS).
Karen, a part-time volunteer for East Anglia's Children's Hospices, said: 'Laura might as well have been lumped in with a load of Russians on sports day.
'The effect would've been the same - she wouldn't have had any idea what was going on.
'It was excruciating for her. The staff claimed they were giving her independence, but that's equivalent to giving a paraplegic independence by taking away his wheelchair.
'Laura needs to communicate to make choices.'
A total of 240 pupils in years 4 to 7 took part in the school summer sports day on July 18, 2007. Nine of the pupils were deaf.
The children were placed in 24 teams of 10 with each team's score contributing to the overall score of one of four school 'houses' - green, yellow, red and blue.
Landmark case: Laura's mother Karen described the incident as 'a massive blow to her confidence at a crucial time for her personal development'
Every team had to perform 24 activities, arranged in a circle, with each activity taking four to five minutes during which the children had to score as many points as possible.
A staff member counted down the end of the each activity on a tannoy from 10 to one to tell the pupils to stop.
Laura could not hear the tannoy and therefore kept going with her activity after the other children finished.
Nor could she hear instructions on how to perform each activity - which ranged from mini assault courses to throwing balls at hoops.
The school had provided five staff members who were qualified signers but distributed them on three activity stations and two water stations.
As a result no signers were at hand on most activities to explain the rules.
Sports-mad Laura, who loves hockey and football, had been looking forward to sports days thinking the activities would, for once, put her on an equal footing with hearing pupils.
Karen said: 'It was a massive blow to her confidence at a crucial time for her personal development.'
The tribunal found, in a report published on August 29, that the school was well intentioned but failed Laura by allocating the signing staff to all the children, instead of to the deaf children.
It stopped short of penalising the school as it had 'taken matters seriously' and had been trying to help Laura gain more independence.
Headteacher Carolyn Sayer said: 'Decisions about the level of support to provide to children are always very finely balanced.
'We want to ensure that children can be included as fully as possible, while also giving them the opportunity for independence and integration with the school's other pupils.
'We continually review our practice to ensure we are doing the best for our pupils and welcome the suggestions from the panel about how we can improve the event further.'
Laura has since the school and currently attends City of Norwich School. Her case is the first of its kind to be won by the NCDS.
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