Parental Advocacy and the Safeguards Necessary for Inclusive Education: New Zealand Lessons for Pacific-Asian Education

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This interdisciplinary paper examines tensions in New Zealand between statutory, regulatory and case law, and the provision of special education for students with disabilities, particularly within the contexts of “disability rights” and “human rights.” The authors -- one is a specialist in education and the other in law -- review fundamental legislation and the landmark Daniels court decision, as well as ministerial-level educational policies, against a backdrop of shifting resource allocation and decision-making from the Ministry of Education to local schools. Consideration is given to the likelihood of difficulties for families and whānau (extended families) in obtaining what Daniels found to be a justiciable right to an education that is “suitable, regular, and systematic.” However, at the local level, the underlying message of “no funding, no welcome and no working relationship” appears to be a pervasive aspect of the education of students with disabilities. In the end, most observers agree that litigation is not a viable path of action for students with special educational needs and their families, with the move toward the inclusive education of disabled students in Pasifika (Pacific-Asian) nations. This article identifies approaches and practices that are most likely to be productive.