Department of Education Complaint Calls on District to Train Staff, Pay for Tuition for Student with Special Needs, Sexually Aggressive Behavior
A Medford family has filed a lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Education, accusing agency and city school district officials of failing to provide “proper education” to a teenager they are in need of. guard who was kicked out of South Medford High School and showed a pattern of sexually offensive behavior.
The document, known as the due process complaint, was filed on December 14 by a couple caring for “John,” a 17-year-old currently enrolled in an out-of-state facility designed to provide a treatment for boys with disorders and addiction.
The couple, who requested anonymity in this article, claim, among other grievances, that the Medford School District did not agree to place the student at White River Academy in Delta, Utah, which triggered their decision to file a CPD. .
“For me, it’s about (John) getting a proper education, but also the safety of the students in South,” John’s legal guardian’s wife said. “They go out of their way to say, ‘No, (John) has to come back here.’ He’s a kid who clearly has issues, and they’re fighting to get him back to campus, and that’s terrifying to me.
John’s legal guardian, who is also his half-brother, hoped that the resolution of the complaint would involve the district administrators and the high school “following proper procedures and doing the right thing for all their students.”
“We have four other kids who are potentially going to go through this school, and I want to make sure it’s a safe environment for them,” he said. “At the moment, I don’t think it’s safe. I have a feeling that there is a lot of mismanagement of these services or that they are not happening at all.
A spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Education said he was not commenting on cases of pending due process complaints.
The Medford School District commented, but declined to give details on the matter.
“The district believes it provides appropriate educational services to both its general education students and students with disabilities,” Natalie Hurd, director of communications and community relations for the district, wrote in an email. . “Due to federal privacy laws governing student records and information, however, the district cannot specifically comment on this case or that particular student.”
The couple are looking for a number of solutions for schools in Medford to provide them with free and appropriate public education. This includes the district’s recognition of White River Academy as the appropriate location for John to receive an education; assess him and make a plan for his education; provide him with compensatory education services for three lost school years; and train school employees on how to work with him.
The couple would also like the district to reimburse them for the cost of John’s attendance at White River Academy and any legal fees related to the complaint.
“(The guardian and his wife) asked the district early on to help pay for this,” said Taylar Lewis, the couple’s attorney. “They informed the district exactly what was going on, gave them lots of details about what had happened, and the district decided they weren’t going to pay for it until they had a meeting to talk about it. . “
The couple want to settle this dispute through mediation. A pre-hearing conference before an administrative judge is scheduled for later this month, according to Lewis.
“It’s different (from) a civil trial,” she said. “For special education claims, that’s what your legal remedy is. You must exhaust your administrative remedies before you can go to state or federal court.
Lewis explained that mediation could take place through a mediator appointed by the Oregon Department of Education, who is a neutral third party in the matter.
“If you manage to resolve the issues in mediation, then of course you will withdraw the complaint and move on,” she said.
Not much is known about the educational background of foster child John until the 2014-15 school year, while living in Oklahoma. While there, he underwent an assessment, indicating that he suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
John struggled academically and got into trouble. He moved to several other states before enrolling in the Medford School District in the 2018-19 school year. It wasn’t until a few months before school started that John’s half-brother became his legal guardian and John moved to the valley to live with him. Neither John’s guardian nor his wife knew about the boy’s troubled past.
By the time he moved to Medford, John already had an Individualized Education Program, a plan composed by school officials to provide appropriate education for students with special needs.
But shortly after he started class, when district officials began searching for John’s records, they found an expired IEP and he would need one from Oregon. possible ”, indicates the complaint.
In the case of a child who has an IEP from another state, the district has two choices, according to Lewis.
Officials can “either take the IEP, they can adopt it… or they can say, ‘we need new assessments, we need to figure out where the gaps are with (this student) and… write their own IEP”, she declared. “What Medford seemed to do in this case is say, ‘Oh, there’s an IEP, look at that, we’re going to make our own at some point. “”
But in January 2019, before such a program could be developed, John was kicked out of South Medford after it was discovered during a district investigation that he was sexually aggressive towards a classmate.
John was sent home to finish his classes, but he was not given the materials he was supposed to work on, according to his legal guardian’s wife.
“It is really unfortunate and disturbing considering that we are at the end of the semester and he does not have the opportunity to complete a job,” she wrote to district officials in an email, which was cited in the complaint. “So he is apparently forced to fail.”
The guardian’s wife said she persisted with district officials until they “finally” moved him to the Oakdale Avenue “upgrading school” in Medford for the duration of his expulsion.
Then, an Oregon IEP was finally officially recommended – by a district psychologist, who wrote an assessment report on John. A meeting to develop the program was held between district officials and the couple, who then complained that the IEP did not allow John to obtain mental health resources or isolate him from an executive. regular education. The complaint claims that some of John’s teachers didn’t know he had an IEP or even knew how it worked.
“There have been several IEPs developed since the first one – as there should be – you should have one at least once a year,” Lewis said. “The most recent IEP, however, was very concerned that it was not meeting his mental health needs, that it was not an environment restrictive enough for him to progress and ensure his safety, as well as that of other students. “
In March 2019, two district officials emailed each other saying that before John returned to South Medford, the special education team had to create “a safety plan” – which John’s guards say ‘they never found any documents.
“No one contacted us at all and he went to school every day,” said the tutor’s wife. “Where is the prevention, where is the protection for the students? Now South says, “We are a safe and good environment; (John) can be here.
John returned to South Medford in April 2019. The following school year, a teacher reported that John had inappropriately touched a student outside the library on two occasions.
“The same issues that were happening in the past that were happening again – and it is not clear what the district was doing to address these issues other than just increasing school staff,” Lewis said.
When the pandemic forced students into distance education, John continued to struggle academically and behave badly.
“We didn’t know he was using his school laptop” inappropriately, said the tutor’s wife. “The school system is supposed to be protected. It was a trigger for him and ultimately led to my daughter being abused. “
In December 2020, the couple had to file a police report against John when a much younger relative reported he had been sexually assaulted by him. This incident is one that causes the tutor’s wife to worry that he will return to a traditional classroom environment.
“At the end of the day, you have a child who (has) previously abused other children in South – with and without repercussions,” she said. “(The school) is just trying to welcome her with open arms, and I’m terrified.”
In February 2021, John signed up for STAR GUIDES, which offers treatment for young sex offenders, but the executive director subsequently noted that the boy was “making slow progress in his treatment and will require continued treatment” at- beyond this program.
“We recommend that (the student) make the transition to a structured residential school that specializes in working with youth with sexual behavior disorders,” the executive director wrote in a letter to the family.
The guardian’s wife describes John’s stay in White River as “a roller coaster ride.”
“A lot has come out” about John’s past, she said, before adding, “we hope he changes his attitude and participates in his treatment.”
John’s tutor half-brother added, “I feel like he still has a long way to go.”
“With the education of (John), I hope he will decipher these books and finish everything, because he has so many loopholes in his foundation,” he said. “Every place it’s placed, they’re trying to fill those gaps to get it where it’s supposed to be, so (are we) optimistic?” Definitively. These are the kind of people we are.
Contact reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.