Challenging the denial of inclusive education for children with disabilities in Flanders 

  • Read our press release about the launch of the collective complaint here

On 25 April 2014, in partnership with the Flemish organisation Gelijke Rechten voor ledere Persoon met een handicap (Equal Rights for Each Person with a disability - 'GRIP'), MDAC sent a collective complaint to the European Committee of Social Rights, challenging the policy of segregating children with disabilities in education in Flanders.

The Belgian government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2009, committing itself to guaranteeing the right to inclusive education for all children, as set out in Article 24. Despite this public commitment, only around 15% of children with disabilities are in mainstream education. Instead, they are sent to segregated schools in separate buildings, denied the opportunity of interacting with their non-disabled peers. For these children, no real access to supports are guaranteed which would enable them to be educated in mainstream schools.

“Our son was refused by several regular schools, so we were obliged to send him to special education,” said Annemie Anthonissen, a parent of a 9-year-old boy with Down syndrome, at a press conference on 25 April: “It was clear that the educational system in Flanders is not providing a possibility for inclusive education to our son. It’s time the international community took notice because the Flemish government has for years failed to make progress in ensuring the full inclusion of children with disabilities.”

Although the rates of inclusion of children with physical impairments has improved in recent years, the rate of exclusion of children with intellectual, severe or multiple disabilities has remained stagnant. Various legislative reforms seeking to strengthen inclusive education have failed to address this, particularly because no additional funding has been identified to provide supports or reasonable accommodations, such as the provision of assistants. In practice, parents are left to fight for the rights of their children to be included, frequently facing denials by schools who argue that they lack sufficient 'carrying capacity' (funding) to provide adequate assistance.


MDAC and our Flemish partners GRIP launch the collective complaint, Brussels. (c) MDAC

In challenging this systemic exclusion of children from mainstream schooling, MDAC has launched a collective complaint against the Belgian government at the European Committee of Social Rights. In this claim, MDAC in partnership with GRIP is submitting that the denial of inclusive education amounts to a breach of the Revised European Social Charter. A treaty of the Council of Europe, the Charter guarantees the rights of persons with disabilities to inclusion in the community (Article 15), for children to be guaranteed to a proper education (Article 17), and places a non-discrimination duty on States (Article E).


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