Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Tip Sheet 10: Knowing your rights about schools

Key Message

  • It is unlawful to discriminate against a person for having a disability or developmental delay
  • All schools must make reasonable adjustments to fully include children with a disability or developmental delay
  • If a school is not respecting your child’s rights, you can raise your concerns and make a complaint if needed

What happens if you have chosen a school for your child and their enrolment has been refused? What happens if the school does not adjust to include your child? What happens if there are problems once your child has started attending school? Here are some tips to help:


What are you and your child’s rights?

The Disability Discrimination Act (1992) states that it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their disability. Schools must also comply with the Disability Standards for Education (2005). These laws and standards mean that children with a disability or developmental delay have the right to enrol in a mainstream school and participate on the same basis as students without a disability or developmental delay. Schools are obliged to make reasonable adjustments to enable students with a developmental or global developmental delay to be included equally.

What is a reasonable adjustment?

Reasonable adjustments include:

  • Modifications to make the classroom more accessible
  • Adjusting the curriculum or teaching approaches
  • Accessing support services 
  • Professional development for teachers

The adjustments made need to be fair and reasonable to everyone. 

What is the goal of reasonable adjustments?

The goal of the adjustments may be to assist your child to:

  • Learn
  • Communicate
  • Be socially included
  • Fully participate in all school activities
  • Have their personal, medical, physical, and emotional needs met
  • Feel a sense of belonging

Every child and every family is different. Your feelings as you take the journey from noticing your child may have a delay, to diagnosis, and beyond may also be different from that of other parents. There is no right or wrong way to feel.

What can I do if a school does not respect my child’s rights?

If a school does not respect your child’s rights, raise your concerns with the school. Things to consider in raising your concerns include:

  • The facts surrounding your concern – Be clear about what the problem is and how you would like it addressed.
  • How to best communicate your concerns – Would it be better to email, call or have a meeting to discuss the matter?
  • Who to communicate your concerns to – If it is a classroom matter it may be best to talk with the teacher. If it is about school policy, it may be better to speak with the principal. 
  • Whether you would like to have support in raising your concerns – You are entitled to have a friend, family member or a professional support you at a meeting.
  • How to communicate your concerns – Being clear, respectful and aiming to help resolve the problem together can be helpful in getting your message across while maintaining a good relationship with the school.

If raising your concerns with the school was not successful in resolving the situation, you may want to make a complaint. Complaints should firstly be made directly to the school. If the complaint is not resolved, you can take your complaint to the education department in the region of the school. 

The method of raising a complaint will depend on which State or Territory you are in and whether your child is in a State, Catholic or independent school. You will need to ask the school, talk to a professional you work with, or do your own research to identify the appropriate organisation to complain to. The resources below will help you get started.

If you feel distressed thinking and reading about this topic,
talk to your GP or health professional. You can also call Lifeline on 131 114.

Where can I get more information?

For more information go to 

Resources developed for parents are both general and specific to the State or territory they are written in. Some examples follow.