A mum-of-five has taken legal action against a school she claims forced her son to wear a bright yellow bib in the playground "so teachers know he's autistic".
Joanne Logan says she wants to win a landmark case so no other children like seven-year-old Charlie can be made to wear markers that single them out as "different" from other kids.
She has taken Cherry Lane Primary School in West Drayton, London, to a disability tribunal, claiming it discriminated against her son.
The London mum, who has five autistic children – two now adults – says she wants to win the case on behalf of all families raising kids living with special needs.
She cannot seek damages in the case – but says the fight is not about money anyway.
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“I just want to make sure that no other autistic child needs to be put through what we did and it needs to be challenged – and if this case, if it’s won, could change that,” Joanne said.
“I have had a lot of people say they’ve had similar. It can affect a child as they get older – they realise they’re different.
They know all these things. They just want to be accepted… we need to stop singling out our disabled kids.”
It all started when Charlie, then six, came home one day last February and told Joanne he'd been wearing the bright yellow bib during break times
His mum said she was "furious" after hearing him.
She said: “I didn’t know anything about it until he told me. I went into the school and said ‘what the hell is going on – why is he wearing this bib?’”
“Charlie was being singled out in the playground. He was the only one wearing a bib- and that’s how discrimination starts.”
The school's management claimed at the time Joanne had previously known about the about the bib.
But Joanne disputes how clear it was made to her.
She believes the school put the hi-vis gear on Charlie so teachers would know he was autistic – which she would not have consented to.
In a video, Charlie has talked about how being put in a hi-vis vest made him feel.
“I was made to wear a yellow bib in the playground, and it felt really bad and it felt really wrong, and I didn’t really want to because it was singling me out no one else had one."
After Joanne complained, Charlie no longer had to wear the vest.
At the time, the school said children wore the reflective vests in the school's playground for a variety of reasons.
However Joanne said the relationship with Cherry Lane had since broken down and she pulled Charlie out.
He moved to a new school, but Joanne says he became distressed there, and they struggled to access the specialist care he needs.
She is now home-schooling him, desperately awaiting news of whether Charlie can get a place in a specialist London school catering to autistic children.
“Since he’s been out of school he’s been such a good boy. I’ve had no problems at home,” Joanne said.
"I just want him in the right place so he’s happy.”
The mum's legal fight for Charlie
Joanne has gone public with her fight because her case, before the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, has met a technical hurdle.
Her lawyer says the school is seeking to have the case thrown out over timing.
All this has made the legal fight more expensive for Charlie's family.
The case is winging its way through an administrative appeals process to determine whether or not it was lodged in time for the first tier tribunal to hear the arguments.
Joanne's solicitor Sarah Woosey, an education law expert and partner at Simpson Millar, said the case had been escalated to a higher authority – the Upper Tier Tribunal – which will determine whether it can be heard.
Her claim was lodged six months and three days after the incident when Charlie was made to wear the hi-vis jacket, Mrs Woosey explained.
The "rules" state that any claim should be lodged within six months except when this deadline falls over Christmas or during the August summer break.
The deadline then shifts to the first working day after that period. In Joanne's case, that would have been September 3.
She said: “We are now fighting hard to ensure that this case is allowed to progress, as we feel strongly that it is important to secure justice on behalf of Charlie, as well as provide reassurance to the thousands of parents out there with children who have special educational needs that schools must treat children fairly and in accordance with the law."
Joanne's request for legal aid was rejected, so she has launched a crowdfunding campaign in a bid to for help to pay for a barrister.
The school referred a request for comment to Hillingdon Council, which said: "Cherry Lane primary school advise us that reflective vests are not compulsory wear for anyone and are only used with parental consent.
"There is no legal case against Hillingdon Council in relation to this or any disability discrimination. Ms Logan has chosen to provide Elective Home Education for her son."
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