Violated right to education of a student with autism

In the case of G.L. v. Italy (application no. 59751/15, 10.09.2020) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights, in conjunction with Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) to the Convention. 

The case concerned the inability for a young girl suffering from nonverbal autism (G.L.) to receive specialised learning support during her first two years of primary education (between 2010 and 2012) even though the support was provided for by law. 

The Government relied, in particular, on a lack of financial resources. 

The Court found that G.L. had not been able to continue attending primary school in equivalent conditions to those available to other children and that this difference was due to her disability. 

The authorities had not sought to determine the young girl’s real needs and provide tailored support in order to allow her to continue her primary education in conditions that would, as far as possible, be equivalent to those in which other children attended the same school. They had not enquired as to whether the budgetary restrictions relied on by the authorities had had the same impact on the provision of education for non-disabled and disabled children alike. In particular, the authorities had never considered the possibility that a lack of resources could be compensated for by a reduction in the overall educational provision, so that it would be distributed equally between non-disabled and disabled pupils. 

The Court further noted that the discrimination suffered by the young girl was all the more serious as it had taken place in the context of primary education, which formed the foundation of child education and social integration, giving children their first experience of living together in a community and which was compulsory in most countries. The Government had not therefore shown that the national authorities had reacted with the requisite diligence to secure to G.L. the enjoyment of her right to education on an equal footing with the other pupils, such as to strike a fair balance between the competing interests at stake. There had thus been a violation of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 2 of Protocol No. 1.

References from the official website of the European Court of Human Rights