The Ombudsman's Report.

"Dear Ms Adams

Department of Education

Thank you for your letter received in this office on 16 April 2010 seeking an investigation by the Ombudsman into your complaint about the Department of Education (DET).  I have now had the opportunity to consider your complaint.

As I understand it, you are complaining that:

1.        DET failed to provide adequate integration arrangements for Isaac; and
2.        DET failed to provide supervision arrangements for Isaac.

I am now in a position to inform you of the outcome of my investigation to date and my preliminary view of your complaint.  This preliminary view has been formed on the material available to me and is provided to you so that you can advise whether I have correctly understood the facts of the matter, and to give you the opportunity to provide further information, or to make a further submission, in response.  I will then form a final view, and will advise you and the DET of this.

In forming my preliminary view I have considered the following:

1.        the information provided in your initial complaint to the Ombudsman;
2.        the information provided in the DET's report;
3.        the information provided in the DET's Behaviour Management in Schools Policy;
4.        the information provided in Isaac's Documented Plan; and
5.        the information provided in Isaac's Individual Behaviour and Risk Management Plan.

I note that in your complaint to the Ombudsman, you believe that you should be financially compensated and that employees of DET should be terminated.  Before I proceed and provide you with the outcome of my investigation into your complaint I believe it is important for you to understand the role of the Ombudsman as I understand that the outcome you are seeking with your complaint to this office is the dismissal of school administration employees and financial compensation.  The outcome you seek will not be achieved by the Ombudsman; accordingly you may need to pursue legal advice regarding your options.

The role of the Ombudsman is to investigate complaints about certain administrative actions of State Government departments and authorities and local government in accordance with the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1971.  For example, the Ombudsman can look at whether a decision made by a State Government agency was reasonable, based on consideration of all the facts and made in accordance with the relevant legislation or policy. 

I understand that on 20 April 2010 you, together with your advocate, Mr Barry Lakeman and Mrs Lisa Dwyer, met with Mr Colin Pettit, Executive Director, Regional and Remote Schools and Mr Laurie Andrew, Director Schools and discussed your concerns about KDHS.  During this meeting, I also understand that you acknowledged that Isaac is happy in his new school and you are content with the support he is receiving.

Allegation 1 - DET failed to provide adequate integration arrangements for Isaac

In your letter of complaint you have explained that you had met with KDHS on numerous occasions seeking an increase in the integration time allocated for Isaac, however I understand that in October 2008, Kalbarri District High School (KDHS) removed Isaac from his mainstream class and placed him in a separate room with another autistic boy.  I also understand that one aid was assigned to both boys for approximately 70% of the schooling period.  During recess and lunch Isaac was then integrated with Kindergarten and Pre-Primary school children, although he was in year 4 at the time.

DET has advised me that KDHS set up a Student at Educational Risk (SAER) room for Isaac and another Autistic boy of the same age; however his integration time in class would change from day to day, week to week as the Education Assistants (EA) were guided by Isaac's ability to cope at any particular time.  He was in mainstream class approximately 60% of the time.

I understand that in the last timetable, which was designed in conjunction with a Visiting Teacher from the Centre for Inclusive Schooling's Autism team, Isaac was integrated into mainstream class at least 30% of the time.  This took place every morning for 20 minutes increasing when possible dependant on Isaacs mood and behaviour for individual work in the class room.  The idea was to gradually increase that time dependent on the ability of Isaac to cope in that situation.

Isaac did activities with his own peer group and was integrated across the school in areas such as Art, Home Economics and Sport however work in the SAER room for periods when he needed one on one time with his Educational Assistant for Maths, English and Lifeskills.  These lifeskills also included going offsite to shops so that he could use money to buy things.  These types of activities were designed to provide integration into the community.

Isaac was integrated during recess and lunch time where he was supervised by his Education Assistants and duty teachers.  During these times he was free to play with other children in the main school however he preferred to sit on the grass and not join in with others whilst eating.

After recess there were a number of activities that Isaac joined his peer group class, these included library board games, stories, art, lego and sport.  These activities usually last approximately 45 minutes or longer if able.

Unfortunately I am not in a position to provide you with expert advice regarding integration however, it is my opinion that the DET have acted in accordance with its Behaviour Management Policy.  I also understand that you have complained to the DET regarding the above and that the DET have responded to you.  Therefore, it is my view that the actions of DET are reasonable in this instance.

Allegation 2 - DET failed to provide supervision arrangements for Isaac

In your letter of complaint you specifically raised an incident concerning your son's supervision.  In particular, you advised that in June 2009 you were advised that your son would not have an aid on Wednesday afternoons and would be supervised by a high school teacher.  On the first Wednesday afternoon the supervising teacher left the room leaving Isaac in the care of Year 9 students.  Isaac left the classroom and was later found where he was assisted in being dressed.

I understand that the above incident was investigated by the Mid West District Office and the DET's Standards and Integrity Directorate.  I understand that on 11 March 2010 you were advised of the outcome of this investigation.  You may not have agreed to the outcome of its investigation, however, it is my view that this course of action by DET is reasonable.

Further, the DET have advised me that Isaac was always supervised.  The KDHS had specifically timetabled EA's to supervise Isaac at all recess and lunch time.  At no time was Isaac left unsupervised.

Conclusion

In consideration of the above, it is my opinion that your complaint is not sustained.  The DET have provided me with evidence to demonstrate that Isaac was integrated with other students at KDHS and was supervised at all times.

However, before forming my final view, I would welcome any further comment or submission that you may like to make regarding your complaint. 

If I have not heard from you within 14 days of the date of this letter, I will assume that I have adequately addressed your concerns and I will close my file on your complaint. If at the end of this you have remaining substantive concerns, you have the option of requesting a review.

Yours sincerely"
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We are pleased to report that upon request the Ombudsman's office is now involved in a review of this case.

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Tel/Email:9220 7555 mail@ombudsman.wa.gov.au
21rd January 2011

"Request for a review of our investigation into Ms Adams complaint about the Department of Education"

"I refer to your request for a review and the additional information you have provided in support of that request.
Firstly I note that in your letter of 30 December 2010 you indicate that you 'are at a complete loss as to why your office has singled out only 2 issues of concern within the official complaint Ms Adams sent to the Ombudsman'.
As you are aware, on 26 May 2010, Ms Collins wrote to Ms Adams setting out the two allegations she was proposing to investigate, and asking Ms Adams to contact her if she had not correctly understood the issues. The allegations that Ms Collins set out in her letter were as follows:
1.        The Department of Education failed to provided adequate integration arrangement for Isaac; and
2.        The Department of Education failed to provide supervision arrangements for Isaac.
As part of the assessment process undertaken by this office investigators may often be required to rephrase the complaint so that it relates to an actual matter of 'administration' as required by the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1971. Sometimes, however, we may need to distil the allegations contained in a complaint into a form that will enable us to address the underlying issues. As part of this process we will write to the complainant to ensure that we have correctly understood the issues, as Ms Collins did, and to give them the opportunity of telling us if we were wrong. As Ms Adams did not respond at that time it is reasonable to assume that she was comfortable with the phrasing of the allegations as proposed and the investigation was undertaken on that basis.
As I indicated in my email to you of 24 December 2010 I have restricted my review to the adequacy of our investigation of the two issues Ms Collins identified in May 2010. I have now completed my review and based on my analysis of the file, and despite the additional information you have provided, I have decided not to reopen your complaint.
In making this decision I considered:
1.        the likelihood of being able to obtain new evidence;
2.        whether any practical outcome can be achieved for the complainant; and
3.        whether re-investigating the matter is an efficient and effective use of our limited resources.
It is my view that the additional information you provided me on 30 December 2010 and with your email of 10 January 2011 was not strong enough to justify further investigation of Ms Adams' complaint as it only constitutes hearsay evidence - that is, testimony that is given by a witness who relates not what he or she knows personally, but to what others have said.
I understand that you may be unable to obtain further information in the form of signed statements from others who actually witnessed the events complained about. However, without further independent evidence, I do not believe there is sufficient cause to challenge the views put forward by the Department of Education as to what occurred. That is not to say that I disbelieve you, or the Department of Education for that matter, rather that the additional evidence you have provided does not justify re-opening the complaint.
During my review I also l considered whether the process followed by the investigating officer was fair and reasonable. In doing so I considered whether:
1.        you had an adequate opportunity to put your case;
2.        all significant arguments were considered;
3.        the investigating officer had no conflict of interest and acted without bias;
4.        the investigating officer's decision or view was reasonably open to the officer to reach on the basis of the evidence;
5.        adequate reasons were given for the decision; and
6.        the investigating officer followed the Ombudsman's prescribed procedures for the conduct of an investigation.
Having reviewed your file I am satisfied that the process followed by the investigating officer was fair and reasonable, and that the opinions formed were reasonably open to the officer to make, and properly considered.
While I understand you may be unhappy with my decision not to re-open your complaint I am confident that your request has been appropriately considered.
Yours sincerely


Andrew Harvey
Assistant Ombudsman Complaint Resolution"
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Author's comment/opinion.

The Ombudsman's Office is acknowledged for their inept investigation into Ms Adams complaint, choosing to select 2 issues out of a possible 38 breaches, ending the review into their investigation with one of their excuses being - "whether re-investigating the matter is an efficient and effective use of our limited resources". A priceless statement from one of our supposably most trusted watchdogs, one that we are asked to respect and put our trust in.

Public confidence - ZERO!