There have been recent reports in the media discussing the impact of fetal alcohol deficiency syndrome on students in classes. Reports talk about the fact that the behaviours manifest by students affected by this syndrome are not deliberate but rather the result of the deficiency that they have acquired.

The deficiency is by no fault of their own but they have to wear the consequences of the actions of intemperate mothers, who continued to drink alcohol during their pregnancies.

While one can empathise with these students, their disruptive and dysfunctional classroom behaviour cannot be excused because of the circumstances of theirs background. The needs of all students in classes has to be taken into account. If this means extended periods of suspension for behaviour that impacts others students in the classroom, then so be it.

FASD leads to brain deficiencies. One of their outcomes can be the inability of affected students to differentiate between right and wrong. They may also have limited recall in future days of the reasons for why their behaviour was wrong. This means that repetition of unacceptable acts can be ongoing.

Teachers and principals have a duty of care for whole classes. Individual students cannot be exempted from classroom and school behavioural requirements because of the syndrome. While mainstream classroom support might be offered by a special education support assistant, this may not overcome the behavioural and attitudinal issues of suffering students.

I believe that there is a strong case for the inclusion of FASD impacted students exhibiting negative behaviours in special schools or in special education units attached to schools. Mainstreaming can impose too many impossibilities.

January 4 2020

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