Two parents are suing the Bentonville School District, claiming their son’s rights were violated when the student was forced into an autism classroom without parental consent.
The parents filed the lawsuit June 17 in federal court. The suit states the school district’s policy automatically placing autistic students in an autism classroom violates the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004.
The lawsuit states children placed in the autism classrooms “are denied access to academic instruction provided to their same-aged non-disabled peer.” They are also denied participation in statewide and district-wide standardized testing, the suit states.
Little Rock attorney Theresa Caldwell is representing the plaintiffs in the case. She is also representing a separate parent who filed a lawsuit against the Bentonville School District in April. That parent, identified as “Brittany O.,” claims school officials allowed her child to be transferred during the school day to a day treatment center, where he was abused, assaulted and physically restrained, that federal lawsuit states.
Summons in both federal cases were issued to state and local school officials Tuesday, according to court records.
The autistic child is referred to as “Child Doe” and “Doe” in the lawsuit. He was born about three months premature and diagnosed with autism at four years old because of expressive and receptive deficits and pragmatic delays impacting his communication and social skills.
The child was in fourth grade last school year and began schooling in Bentonville as a kindergartner.
The lawsuit states local and state education administrators were obligated to provide special treatment services for the boy, although no services were given. The parents later hired help from California to set up a special program for the child at home, the suit states.
The child showed advancements after the treatment, including increased verbal and social abilities, but was not allowed out of the autism classroom at school, according to the lawsuit.
The parents responded by asking the boy’s teachers for lesson plans two weeks in advance “so that they could incorporate the material and ‘pre-teach’ Doe using their (program) methods at home,” the lawsuit states. The school district denied the request.
The parents also complained that administrators told them the child would be included in a regular classroom as he got older. That promise was never fulfilled, the parents said.
The lawsuit also claims the school district tried to stop the boy from taking part in state standardized tests because of his disability. The district has acknowledged he does not meet criteria exempting students from taking such exams, according to the suit.
A hearing officer for the Arkansas Department of Education’s Special Education Unit found in favor of the school district in a complaint resolved on March 13. The hearing officer states regular standardized testing would not be appropriate for the child and that the school offered reasonable help to the child and parents concerning the boy’s autism.
The parents’ lawsuit seeks to overturn the hearing officer’s findings, the suit states.
Click here to read more on the other lawsuit against the Bentonville School District, filed in March.