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January 2011



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Thursday, October 21, 2010


The parents of an autistic 12-year-old student have filed a class action lawsuit against the Gateway School District in federal court, claiming that the district misled them about the student’s educational progress and left him nearly four years behind as he entered fifth grade.


The plaintiffs, who are identified only by their initials, filed suit Monday on behalf of all of the district’s autistic children, claiming that several other parents have similar complaints.


The suit accuses the district of violating several federal laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which mandates that schools provide disabled students with “appropriate [special] education services sufficient to address their educational needs,” the suit says.


District spokeswoman Cara Zanella referred comment to the district’s attorneys, William Andrews and Bruce Dice, who could not be reached.


The federal law requires, among other things, that districts provide students who have disabilities with an Individualized Education Program, a curriculum tailored specifically to their needs and abilities. It also requires that teachers set annual goals for students and advise parents as to how students are progressing toward those goals. Finally, it allows parents to participate in the process of formulating the IEP.


According to the suit, the boy was a student at Ramsey Elementary School from kindergarten to fifth grade. During that time, his parents said, they received “reports detailing substantial educational gains in academic, functional and developmental skills.”


Based on report cards and meetings with teachers, his parents believed he was nearly up to grade level, performing at a third- or fourth-grade level at the end of his fourth-grade year. They also participated in meetings addressing the child’s IEP.


But as he prepared to enter Moss Side Middle School, new progress reports showed the boy was actually functioning at a first- or second-grade level. The parents confirmed this with outside professionals and concluded that “the District had misrepresented years of previous educational process.”


They also said parents of other autistic children experienced similar problems and characterized it as “pervasive misrepresentation of students’ educational progress.”


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