One young Maltese boy suffering from a behavioural condition has been blocked from attending his new school, both in person and virtually, since the start of the scholastic year.
John*, who is just seven years old, was diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) in June of this year, which means he can be uncooperative, defiant, and hostile toward peers, parents, teachers, and other authority figures.
Following years of mistreatment at his previous school, John’s mother felt it was the right time for a new start for her young son, setting him up at a state school at the beginning of summer.
A report from a child psychologist detailing John’s condition was immediately sent to the school and LSEs. Still, it was actually never seen and examined by staff until an episode at the start of school.
John actually began attending some lessons at the school well before the academic year started to prepare him for the daunting task of joining a new school with unfamiliar surroundings.
On his first day with other students, John had an episode during one of his lessons. At his previous school, LSEs were well aware of his behaviour issues and would always escort him out of class for a breather.
This time was different and John ended up flipping some tables in the classroom. His parents were told soon afterwards that he would only be able to return to school if they were to fulfil specific criteria.
However, John was not provided with virtual lessons, as was customary throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with the school simply sending home a list of schoolwork and homework for John to complete.
His mother, who is not a qualified teacher, feels that this is not the kind of educational environment her child needs at this crucial stage.
John must attend behavioural therapy and be put on medication, while his parents must attend parenting skills classes.
However, a long waiting list means John might need to wait for months before starting regular therapy, leaving his parents with one choice: forking out massive fees on a private service.
Meanwhile, they fear that the medication leaves John living life as a zombie, without ever giving him the chance to actually try out the new school.
His mother made it clear that she’s not against putting John through such a program but would rather see her son be given a chance in the new school before drastic measures were taken.
They would later find out that neither the LSE responsible for John or the school looking after him had actually read a report outlining the issues with his behaviour. The school even asked the parents to produce such a report, even though it had been submitted just months prior.
John has had a tough time moving from school to school, with his mother even detailing cases of bullying from students and teachers alike.
She has reached out to the Ministry on several occasions. However, she has either received very weak or no replies. She said she’s reached out to Minister Justyne Caruana specifically but has received no reply.
Now, she’s been forced to take matters into her own hands and will submit her case to Parliament with the help of NPSPD, an NGO that aids parents of children with disabilities.
It remains to be seen whether any action will be taken. However, the move raises major concerns over the treatment of children with behavioural problems in school.
*Names have been changed to protect the boy’s identity
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