At a time when schools are closing their doors to children with special learning needs, an expert panel has set a precedent by saying that an eight-year-old boy with an autism spectrum disorder should continue studying in the Juhu school that he was forced to leave in July 2012.
The panel, headed by developmental pediatrician Dr Samir Dalwai, observed the child during school hours for 13 days, accompanied by a shadow teacher as per orders from the Bombay high court and the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights
The report said: "During the observation period, he did not show any sign or inclination of hurting himself or others. He showed no violent or self-destructive behaviour."
The report suggested that the school provide the child with facilities to cater to his special needs and parents should provide a therapy programme to help him.
According to the report, the presence of a child with special needs helped other children in the class to become more responsible and understanding. It also pointed out on a need for a mandate on qualifications of professional counsellors, guidelines, etc, as there is an alarming rise in the cases of children being ill-treated by schools.
"This report will empower parents to fight back if schools show the door to children with special needs," said AN Tripathi, secretary of the child rights body, which will issue a final order after hearing the school's and parent's response to the report.
The boy was expelled from the school last July. The school authorities claimed his condition had worsened due to his "inability to express his needs to the teacher".
The parents approached the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights in October, and the commission passed an order on November 1, stating that the child should be allowed to attend school for 15 days under his parents' supervision and be observed by a panel of experts.
The parents, however, opposed the order, saying they wanted a permanent solution.
They approached the Bombay high court, which upheld the commission's order on March 5 and referred the case back to it.