Officials give up on Chloe

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Disabled teen in too-hard basket.

A disabled Arrow Junction teen hasn’t been to school for a year after being put into “home detention” by education authorities.

The parents of Chloe Sturt have been battling the Ministry of Education over essential support allegedly withheld since early 2008.

Quadriplegic Chloe, 13, has cerebral palsy.

Mum Sheralyn Sturt is calling on the MoE to sack Dunedin-based district manager Patrick Crowley – his Special Education unit is “not doing their job”, she says. “I just think they’ve all put Chloe in the too-hard basket.”

Special Education arranges specialist teachers and resources such as speech therapy for the education and wellbeing of children with special needs.

Southern Regional Health School, Wakatipu High and The Correspondence School are also involved – under the direction of Special Education.

Until April 2008, Chloe attended Wakatipu High full-time – her twin sister is a regular pupil.

But her school days ended when the MoE ordered the Sturts not to put Chloe and her Government-provided electric wheelchair into the new $40,000 family van – because the vehicle doesn’t have a certified ramp.

No proper ramp or hoist was provided, the MoE instead offering to pay for a taxi – but a cab can’t fit the wheelchair in, and Chloe’s weight of 40kg is also officially too heavy for a carer to lift her, Sturt says. “I couldn’t transport her in her electric wheelchair anywhere without breaking all the rules.

“Chloe’s being put on home detention because she can’t go anywhere.”

At the same time, Chloe became ill so she stayed home. But eventually the MoE came knocking and threatened to get a truancy officer involved, Sturt says.

Last November, the Sturts began paying for four hours of private tuition a week for their daughter – but was soon told “this wasn’t good enough”.

Yet they’ve recently been told – by Chloe’s MoE-arranged tutor – that only 2.5 hours weekly tuition will be funded and the family won’t be back-paid.

“I’m not going to accept that,” Sturt says.

“I’ve had nine months of guilt, feeling I’m not being a good enough mother by only giving her four hours [tuition] and now suddenly they say two-and-a-half hours.

“We’ve worked really hard for Chloe to live as independently as possible so she grows up, works and pays her taxes instead of being thrown in some old people’s home somewhere because [the MoE] hasn’t bothered with her.

“She might not be able to stand or talk perfectly but her brain’s good. She’s capable of getting a job like everyone else.”

Chloe also hasn’t had speech therapy since April 2008 – despite the MoE promising it, Sturt says.

“That affects her education because if the teacher can’t understand, she thinks Chloe doesn’t know the answers.”

SRHS principal Chris Parsons can’t comment on Special Education but plans to meet Dunedin officials today to attempt a bureaucratic breakthrough.

“I understand why you’re calling,” he tells Mountain Scene.

“My deputy principal in Dunedin has been talking to Sheralyn [Sturt this week].

“We’re constrained with what we do.

“Our mandate is very clear and there are things that we can’t do, we can’t cross boundaries and we’re doing all that we are able to do.”

Special Education deputy secretary Nick Pole refuses to talk about Chloe but a spokeswoman says a local “service manager” would contact the Sturts yesterday.

Wakatipu High principal Lyn Cooper also didn’t respond to questions by page deadline – Patrick Crowley couldn’t be contacted.