In a first, the Maharashtra state child rights’ panel has recommended the government make changes to the Secondary School (SS) Code, 1979, which governs all schools in the state.
If the recommendations are accepted, schools will not be able to detain under-18 children with disabilities.
The recommendations were part of a recent order, on a complaint filed by a parent against a Bandra school for expelling a Class 9 student with Down Syndrome. The student failed his school exams for the second time last June.
The school expelled the boy, citing rule 56.3 of the SS Code, which states if a student fails an exam twice he has to discontinue studies in that school.
This rule is in conflict with the 2012 amendment to the Right to Education Act, 2009, the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) pointed out.
The amendment has set 18 years as the age-limit for children with disabilities to complete their elementary education.
“One of the provisions of the RTE act says the child cannot be detained in any class till the completion of elementary education. For regular children, the age criteria is six to 14 years, but for those with disabilities, the limit is 18 years,” said AN Tripathi, secretary of the commission. “The SS Code cannot overrule this provision.”
The commission directed the state to make a special provision to keep the code in consonance with the RTE Act. “The state government is directed to consider the matter by amending the SS Code for children with disabilities,” read the order.
The commission also asked the state to modify the SS code, keeping in mind the interests of children with disabilities.
“Extra chances should be given to such children and extra effort provided by competent authorities,” the commission recommended.
Experts welcomed the order.
Dinkar Patil, joint director of the State Council for Educational Research and Technology, said the government is planning to introduce a new law that will make the SS code redundant.
“Teachers and schools have to rely on the SS code for different aspects of school functioning, but many of its norms clash with the RTE Act, causing chaos and confusion,” said Patil.