Equal Status Act 2000
Schools are within the scope of the Equal Status Act which aims to promote equality and prohibit types of discrimination, harassment and related behaviour in connection with the provision of services, property and other opportunities to which the public generally has access.
The ten grounds are
2. marital status
3. family status
4. sexual orientation
5. religion ground
6. age ground
7. disability ground
8. ground of race
9. Traveller community ground
10. Victimisation ground
Reasonable provision must be made by the provider of the service for students with disability. Section 4(1) provides: “Discrimination includes a failure by the provider of a service to do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability by providing special treatment or facilities, if without special treatment or facilities, it would be impossible or unduly difficult for the person to avail himself or herself of the service “
Section 7 (2) of the Act provides: “ An educational establishment shall not discriminate in relation to (a) the admission or the terms or conditions of admission of a person as a student to the establishment (b) the access of a student to any course, facility or benefit provided by the establishment (c) any other term or condition of participation in the establishment by a student or (d) the expulsion of a student from the establishment or any other sanction against the student.
Exemptions for educational establishments
(i) Where a primary or post-primary school admits students of one gender only, and it refuses to admit as a student a person who is not of that gender
(ii) Where the establishment is a school providing primary or post-primary education to students and the objective of the school is to provide education in an environment which promotes certain religious values, it admits persons of a particular religious denomination in preference to others or it refuses to admit as a student a person who is not of that denomination, and in the case of a refusal, it is proved that the refusal is essential to maintain the ethos of the school.
(iii) differences in the treatment of students on the grounds of gender, age or disability in relation to the provision or organisation of sporting facilities or events, to the extent that these differences are reasonably necessary
(iv) differences in treatment on the grounds of disability where compliance with the act would make impossible, or have a seriously detrimental effect on, the provision of educational services to other students
The effect of this latter exception is to create a presumption in favour of mainstreaming of children with disability which can only be rebutted if the school can establish that mainstreaming would render impossible, or seriously affect, the provision of education to the other children in the class
In addition to tackling discrimination on the above grounds, the Equal Status Act also prohibits (Section 11 (1) (c), sexual harassment or harassment on any of the discriminatory grounds, by a person in a position of authority, of a student or a person who has applied for admission to or seeks to avail of services provided by an educational establishment. Section 11 (2) further provides, inter alia, that a person responsible for the operation of an educational establishment shall not permit another person who has a right to be present in, or avail of any facilities, goods or services provided at, that place to suffer sexual or other harassment at that place. Where such harassment has taken place, the person in charge will have to show that he/she took such steps as were reasonably practicable to prevent it.