Free public education is a right in California until the student turns 22, but 21-year-old David Swanson’s Northern California public school is reportedly trying to pay his parents tens of thousands of dollars to leave in order to duck their complaints filed against the school district and its superintendent. According to ABC News, David’s parents have several issues with the way their autistic son has been treated, which is now attracting serious attention from the media.
Heather Houston, David’s mother, alleges that her son has been force-fed, discriminated against, and his iPad — the device with which he has learned to communicate — was purposefully broken. David is not only autistic, but he has diabetes and does not speak, although his mother and private duty nurse of five years, Annette Armstrong, say he can understand everything.
"I don't get it, because he's a wonderful child," Annette said. She attended the first day of school with David two weeks ago but says he was sent home straightaway and the settlement letter was delivered. The letter, which remains unsigned, would not only award David’s parents $86,000, but it would also waive David’s rights to free public education and ensure that the complaints filed by Heather would be dropped. She would also be disallowed to file any new complaints against the school district or the superintendent.
"The law says he's allowed access to education," Heather said. "I don't want their money. I never wanted their money."
David, who will turn 22 in the spring, has suffered serious discrimination at the hands of his teachers at his school, according to Annette, who says one day she witnessed David being force-fed. Annette says that as a result of David’s autism, he is hypersensitive to metal, so when his teacher insisted he use a metal fork instead of a plastic one, he spit the food out. She says the teacher proceeded to force the food back into his mouth, causing him to eventually vomit.
"She would push his head in the bowl, make him spit in the bowl and stir it up and make him eat it," Annette said. "Her methods are bizarre."
More bizarre is that David receives a personal and detailed lesson plan, separate from the other students, that encourages a level of learning suitable for his needs and abilities. On his lesson plan for that year was learning proper hygiene and learning to write his name and phone number in case he ever wandered away from home. Nowhere in the plan was he slated to learn table manners.
Heather says she received a settlement offer earlier this year of $50,000, which she had her lawyer decline, simply stating that it was an insufficient amount to cover her son’s medical needs. She had no desire to submit a counter offer; she meant to decline entirely.
ABC News notes that a school can refuse education to a student whose needs they are unable to meet, but they must pay for both alternative education and transportation in this case. While it is unclear whether this settlement offered to Heather was a gag offer or an offer for alternative education, it is very clear that Heather intends to fight for her son’s right to remain in public school.
What do you think about this, moms? Comment below!
Source: ABC News