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March 30, 2004

Govt sued over Coast deaf kids

From: Sunshine Coast Daily - Mar 30, 2004

THE families of two deaf Sunshine Coast child-ren are suing the state government for failing to provide adequate education.
The parents of a 10-year-old boy attending a Coast state school want $500,000 in compensation because their son has the reading ability of a five-year-old.
Kim and Jon Devlin are taking the legal action, along with Gail Smith and Jeff Hurst, whose six-year-old daughter, Tiahna, needs a full-time interpreter at a primary school at Coolum.
The families faced the Federal Court in Brisbane yesterday for the start of a seven-day hearing of the case after fighting for the services for more than two and a half years.
Ms Devlin said her son Ben, who is severely deaf, was in Year 6 at Noosaville Primary School but able to read only at Year 1 level.
She said her son's maths skills were equivalent to a Year 3 child despite attending the school's special education unit.
"It's been hard on the family ...having to see how he copes, his anxiety problem he has at the moment,'' she said outside court.
Ms Smith, who is seeking compensation for future learning needs for her daughter who is in Year 1, has urged the government to teach the nationally recognised Auslan sign language system.
"I just want Tiahna and Ben to get the education they are entitled to,'' she said.
"She comes home upset because she doesn't understand the rules of the game or she doesn't know what was talked about in the classroom.
"I think it is absolutely heartless and cruel to deaf children.
"She loses her self confidence as a person and it breaks your heart as a mother.
"I just want to get her the same information as the hearing kids in the class room.'' The legal action has the backing of Queensland Deaf Society, which has called current services inadequate.
"The education outcomes for deaf and hearing impaired children are less than they should be,'' QDS regional services manager Keri Gilbert said outside court.
"We would like the government to listen to parents.'' The court was told yesterday a working party submitted detailed costings to the education minister in 2002 on deaf education improvements.

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