More than 100 children and parents protested outside the Education Bureau's headquarters in Wan Chai yesterday to demand the government rectify a policy they say forces mentally disabled students out of school at age 18. The fate of more than 300 students this year was still undecided, said Chiu Cheung Lai-man, chairman of the Grand Alliance of Parents for the Rights of Students with Special Educational Needs. 'It is very irresponsible,' Mrs Chiu said, adding she was anxious to know if her 18-year-old son, Man-chuen, could continue to study at Buddhist Po Kwong School in Fanling. Of the 360 applications for mentally disabled students to continue their studies, 34 have been approved on the grounds that they missed school for more than six months over the past year due to health reasons, a bureau spokesman said. The remaining 326 students will have to compete for 260 vacancies. Before 2004, principals could apply to the bureau for permission to allow the students to continue their studies after they reached adulthood, and in almost every instance the request was approved, the alliance said. Since then, the bureau has encouraged principals to ask students to join job placement programmes or care services. The Education Bureau said it had not changed its policy. But Mrs Chiu said: 'Schools are allowed to take these students only if they have vacancies. In fact, the law states that students with special needs can continue their education until they reach 20.' The alliance said an 18-year-old mentally disabled student had filed a judicial review against the bureau. The court hearing will be held next Tuesday and Wednesday. The Education Bureau said it understood parents' care for their children and society's concerns, but said the number of applications this year was higher than in previous years. There were 49 applications in the 2004/05 school year and 44 in 2005/06, but in 2006/07 the number rose to 99 and stood at 198 in 2007/08.