News

Special-education family sues district

In appeal of state ruling, Palo Alto family seeks in-home schooling for autistic son

The family of a special education student sued the Palo Alto Unified School District in federal court this week, alleging that the district violated federal law when it declined to provide in-home education for their child.

The family of "S.C.," a 12-year-old boy with autism, moved to Palo Alto a year ago and sought the same type of at-home educational program for their son he had received in his previous school district, according to the lawsuit.

Palo Alto district officials disagreed, offering the child a classroom placement and saying it was "comparable."

When the family appealed, a hearing officer from the California Office of Administrative Hearing sided with the school district in a decision issued Dec. 31, 2013.

The federal lawsuit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in San Jose, is an appeal of that ruling.

The student, who the lawsuit said "lacks the ability to communicate verbally and has a history of severe allergic reactions to food," also has difficulty with fine and visual motor skills and sensory processing behavior.

The family's lawyer, Brian Sciacca, cites case law suggesting that the "stay-put" provision – meaning the same type of educational placement as before – should apply when a special education student transfers to a new district and a dispute arises about the most appropriate educational placement in the new district.

In this case, the family is seeking "continued provision of an in-home educational program designed to meet his unique educational needs arising from his disability, including 40 hours a week of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, two hours per week of individual speech and language services and two hours per week of individual occupational therapy services."

Asked to comment on the lawsuit, the district said in a statement: "The Palo Alto Unified School District is committed to provide educational programs that help each student achieve their unique potential. The Special Education Division believes that the recommendations they have made and that were confirmed by the judge in this process are appropriate. We will continue to work with this family to provide an appropriate educational setting for this student."

Chris Kenrick

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hello
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 6, 2014 at 11:23 am

The California Office of Administrative Hearings sides 90% of the time with the school districts. It is virtually impossible to take on a government run tax payer monopoly which has unlimited funds to fight you. However, I wish the family the best of luck and I hope they win their case. Clearly there are some children than can not be educated in a mainstream environment.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hello
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 6, 2014 at 11:28 am

Is there a link to their case? I would like to read it.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Aghast
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 6, 2014 at 4:06 pm

What is to stop everyone with an autistic child from moving to Palo Alto and then suing the school district to pay for an extremely expensive in home education?

Sorry, as much as I think that everybody should have equal rights, this is a system gone completely awry.

I am so glad we are soon done with this town's school parents.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by I agree
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm

I've heard that some people move to Palo Alto just to get trash pickup!! Can you believe it? Obviously we need to stop picking up trash. This has to stop!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 6, 2014 at 4:36 pm

I have no knowledge of this case, but @Hello - I don't think this child was mainstreamed into a regular classroom. PAUSD puts students into the least restrictive environment. LRE means that a student is to participate in as much of the general education program as is appropriate in view of his/her educational needs. Home is pretty restrictive.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 6:08 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 6, 2014 at 6:17 pm

I read through the court documents and I find it odd that the parents want their child educated at home because they are concern he/she will have an allergic reaction from contact with other people yet they take the child to amusement parks, the park and restaurants?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Case statement
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Why could they take the child outside their home?

They hired people to accompany and protect the student from allergens.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent of allergic child
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 6:48 pm

As someone who loves Juana Briones school and think the world of the parents and teachers there, and even think they do a better job than much of the rest of the district when it comes to allergies, nevertheless, it's my experience that our district doesn't handle allergies, especially serious allergies, nearly as well as they think they do, and it's a real struggle for the parents and families. I know someone whose kid had some pretty dangerous/bad reactions at JB in the last few years and the parents' reasonable requests for accommodations were not dealt with very well. Linda Lenoir, the district nurse, is pretty old school when it comes to allergies, and knows just enough to make her at the very least, unhelpful. Our district is spending way too much money fighting parents, money that could just be spend working with parents. I these parents felt their child were safe at the school, they would send him there. I'm afraid given what I have seen, I would have to err on the side of the parents in this case. I wish we had a different group of people at the district office.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 6:52 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OMG
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Not another one! What is wrong with this district?!

These parents know what is best for their child. It's ridiculous that the district keeps fighting parents in this district instead of just doing what the parents ask.

The solution isn't rocket science. This board needs to be removed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by another parent of allergic child
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2014 at 7:27 pm



I was surprised to see the statement that epipen and antihistamines could fail in anaphylaxis, but it's probably true - everything can fail, and the only way to avoid a problem is avoidance.

I was also surprised that they did a peanut and hazelnut skin test on the child because that is a no-no for kids with a known reaction to nuts.

And another surprise, I didn't know that anaphylaxis is a known reaction for dairy allergies and other type allergies. Do dairy allergies cause anaphylaxis?

Anyway, I have never seen legal protections/accommodations for allergies, and this would be a first. Does the code specify allergies would allow you to have home instruction?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent of allergic child
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 7:33 pm

@another parent of allergic child,
If your child has anaphylactic allergies and the district does a really great job of dealing with those allergies, your child may not need any formal accommodations. Unfortunately, our district does not. There are legal protections for children if a health issue can interfere with their education. Many children with anaphylactic allergies also have other allergies that can impact school performance and attendance, and student health and performance.

"I was also surprised that they did a peanut and hazelnut skin test on the child because that is a no-no for kids with a known reaction to nuts."

In some ways, our district medical people are neanderthals when it comes to allergy. I'm guessing they insisted on it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Every Child Should Be Loved
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2014 at 7:46 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 7:53 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by another parent of allergic child
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm

parent of allergic child,

I don't think you can assume the district asked for the peanut skin test. It appears that the parents provided these facts, and at any rate it would be the doctor's call, not the school nurse.

The district always asks us to submit our allergy information with our doctor's recommended treatment plan. If I forget, I get voice mails, emails and letters until the paperwork, epipen, and any medicines are in the nurse's office. The forms are very thorough. This has been the case K - High School.

There is no such thing as being perfect with allergies. Our worst situations happened on our own watch, even though we are constantly trying to improve being our own best defense. It's a pretty horrible feeling. It's difficult to see that the degree of expertise in handling allergies would be the reason for accommodations.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent of allergic child
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:04 pm

@parent,
Does your child have a disability that prevents your child from getting a free and appropriate education that she is entitled to in the public schools unless she is accommodated?

Sounds like maybe since you think it best you should put your child in a private school so you can continue to live in smug intolerance and don't have to have anything to do with any of those unpleasant parents of children with disabilities.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent of allergic child
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:10 pm

@ another parent of allergic child,
I think the district medical specialist did say they needed to do a test or they wouldn't be believed. From the case history:
"In her [district's doctor] opinion, the only way to determine whether an allergy was life-threatening was with a direct-exposure challenge."

I think the difference in this case is that your child can speak and advocate for him/herself, the child in question her is severely autistic and cannot.

>"and at any rate it would be the doctor's call, not the school nurse."
Unfortunately, in this district, if they don't like you, it's the school nurse, and she's pretty stone age when it comes to allergies (if she doesn't like you). I'm glad to hear you've had a pretty good experience, it's unfortunately not a consistent experience across the district.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:20 pm

@ parent of allergic child: What I'm saying is that we can't give everything to every parent because there is no where near enough money to do so. In reading the synopsis of the case that Edmund Burke so helpfully provided, it's pretty clear to me that what the parents are asking for is above and beyond what is necessary, according to the professionals that have evaluated the child. The doctor took the easy way out. Have you ever gotten a doctor to write you a prescription for a viral infection that you didn't really need but they were tired of arguing with you? That's why we have bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

It sucks to have a disabled child and it sucks to have a child with allergies. If we provide in home schooling for everyone child that has these problems, there won't be anything left for the other children. The schools have to strike a very delicate balance and not every parent is going to be happy. Do you honestly think the people who work in the schools do it so they can screw any disabled child out of what they deserve? Glad I don't live in your world. Also you're the one who called these parents unpleasant, not me. If anything, I'm calling them unrealistic.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by my opinion
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:44 pm

i completely, 100%, without a doubt agree with the school district here. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by my opinion
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:50 pm

I just read through the entire linked file and I can honestly say that I completely agree with the school district even more than I did with my previous post. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent of allergic child
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:50 pm

@ parent,
"What I'm saying is that we can't give everything to every parent because there is no where near enough money to do so."
Luckily - guess what - the vast majority of parents in this district are here to send their kids to school on location and aren't all asking for what you say we can't afford.

"...according to the professionals that have evaluated the child"
You know, if our district placed a higher priority on working with parents rather than spending money on expensive experts to support their prescriptions, we might just have the money to take care of these kids the way the law provides.

"Have you ever gotten a doctor to write you a prescription for a viral infection that you didn't really need but they were tired of arguing with you?"
No, I have not.

"It sucks to have a disabled child and it sucks to have a child with allergies. If we provide in home schooling for everyone child that has these problems, there won't be anything left for the other children."
Again, in case you haven't noticed, most people with allergic children aren't asking the district to provide home schooling for their children, and will not even if this family prevails. This is the kind of warped thinking that gets us into ridiculous lawsuits. If the district spent half as much effort just doing a better job for allergic children, then parents like these wouldn't feel like they had to go to such extremes. Knowing the district players, I don't have any confidence in either their medical judgment or their intentions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent of allergic child
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:56 pm

@my opinion,
I'm sickened that this situation ever got to court or that such resources were spent on such adversarial and expensive back and forth. For that I completely blame the district. But I can see how you feel that way when all you read is what the expensive hired guns have written and you don't know the players.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:56 pm

@ parent of allergic child - let's agree to disagree. I can give a counterpoint to every one of yours but what would be the point? We don't live in a litigious society where people sue because they can. These parents didn't like what the courts ruled. So they sued. If parents just did what was right the schools wouldn't be spending all this money. See, it's possible to turn anything around, isn't it?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by another parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2014 at 9:01 pm

I completely agree with "parent" above, both as a parent of a child with allergies and as a former special education teacher. My daughter is highly allergic to peanuts but she has managed in her various school settings. She will have to be extremely careful her entire life with food, as those are the "cards she was dealt".

As a former special ed. teacher, I provided in home services to medically fragile children, with the goal always being to get them into a group setting. Some children received a combination of both individual and group services as they progressed. It would be completely unwise to comment on a situation I have no personal knowledge of. However, everyone has to be realistic about the incredible expense of individual home based education and how a district has to reserve that money for the most critical of children. I cannot fathom any student needing 40 plus hours of services every week, as the Weekly article references, and where on earth that money would come from. We have over 10,000 children in this district that all need to be educated.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent of allergic child
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 9:06 pm

@parent,
"We don't live in a litigious society where people sue because they can. "

Telling Freudian slip.

Suing in this case is more difficult and stressful for the family, and more costly for them in terms of their personal resources. The fact that you see this as some kind of frivolous litigiousness tells me you have an agenda and perhaps ought to keep your ideological opinions out of something so painful and personal for this family. The truth is, it's d@mned hard to pursue a lawsuit and even harder to appeal for that family. The only reason conceivable under the circumstances is on principle. Knowing the district players, I can read between the lines.

"If parents just did what was right the schools wouldn't be spending all this money."
If schools just did what was right, we wouldn't be spending all this money, and it would start with firing a bunch of petty, caustic, useless bureaucrats who have been around too long and don't really care as much as they like to claim about the kids. If you look at the actual numbers, in the last few years, our legal advice has gotten us such a huge increase in legal fees, we could afford to cover some of these special cases just fine if we got a law firm with perhaps less self-interested advice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 9:13 pm

It's called sarcasm. When people don't get what they want, they sue. They have that right in our society. Unfortunately, it is costly for everyone. How about the 18 year old who is suing her parents because they won't pay for her private school education and college education? No matter that she won't follow their rules. It's an incredibly slippery slope. What about the guy who is suing a hotel in Las Vegas because he got so drunk he lost six figures. He says they shouldn't have served him alcohol. Maybe he shouldn't have drunk it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent of allergic child
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 9:14 pm

@another parent,
"My daughter is highly allergic to peanuts but she has managed in her various school settings. She will have to be extremely careful her entire life with food"

With all due respect, I know parents at the school in question - as I said, very good school, great teachers - who almost sued because of personal injury related to serious allergy. Our school district isn't there when it comes to allergy. You say your daughter has managed and will have to be extremely careful her entire life. And here is a case of a child who has the same serious allergies, but who is nonverbal and cannot advocate for him/herself the way your child can, and who cannot have the same judgment as yours does. I suspect when this family has better assurance of our district doing better with allergies, their attitude will change. That's probably not going to happen until they get people who don't demand the child have a challenge test to prove their deadly allergic before offering appropriate accommodations.

"It would be completely unwise to comment on a situation I have no personal knowledge of."
Where on earth will the money come from? From not spending it on lawyers who offer the district the advice to treat parents so adversarially. High performing districts back east I can think of where they just work with parents are not going bankrupt, they're saving money and doing fine by the children.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent of an allergic child
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 9:35 pm

"When people don't get what they want, they sue."
You say this, and then you equate an expensive and painful process by a family on behalf of a seriously disabled child with life-threatening allergies who cannot get any kind of damages for it with some frivolous suits that have nothing to do with it.

The fact is, you are making an arguable claim that plays on people's prejudices about our system, and using it -- for what reason, what is your personal ideology or agenda here? -- to cast aspersions on a family who already has a tough row to hoe.

Americans are not especially litigious, either, that's a myth propagated by insurance interests.
Web Link

""Litigiousness is not the same thing as the pervasiveness of law, but the entrenched myth of American litigiousness provides a powerful example of the cultural, ideological, and [*75] economic moorings of legal consciousness""
Web Link

Major Harvard studies established that of people who are demonstrably injured by objectively provable malpractice, where they COULD get monetary damages, almost none sue. Far less than 1% sue. In fact, they found there is a LOT of malpractice, and very little litigation that results from it. This continues today.
Web Link

But like the insurance companies who benefit from continuing the false drumbeat of frivolous American litigiousness, you for some reason want to associate that with a painful and expensive process for a family, with the sole purpose of providing legally due care for a child. Why is that? [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by another parent of allergic child
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2014 at 9:37 pm

parent of allergic child,

There is no such thing as a "district doctor."

The district looks to a student's own pediatrician for how to proceed. The pediatrician fills out the medical form with the specifics of what the child has, and what medicines or treatment are required in school. When you administer an Epipen you either way have to be making the 911 call because there is a 24 hour observation after the Epipen.

It does not appear that PAUSD is challenging the peanut allergy or any of the allergies anyway. If they had, surely that would have been mentioned. So, it was either the parents or their own medical staff who authorized the peanut skin test.

You said "If the district spent half as much effort just doing a better job for allergic children, then parents like these wouldn't feel like they had to go to such extremes."

Again, the district's protocols on allergies are not what makes this situation extreme or not.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent of an allergic child
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 9:51 pm

@parent of another allergic child,
I think you and I are on the same side. I wish you would please first get acquainted with the facts before you just start arguing again.

I never said there was a "district doctor". Notice you are the first person to use that term.

The district does NOT look to a student's own pediatrician for how to proceed. (They only do that if they like you.) If the district doesn't like what the student's own pediatrician says, they have all manner of ways to cast aspersions on what the pediatrician's judgment and even the pediatrician him/herself.

I read the court document. The district hired a medical person to challenge the parents' 3 medical opinions, didn't you see that? (Perhaps you should read the facts before weighing in again with such strong opinions.) The district's hired medical person said in their opinion the only way to establish an anaphylactic allergy was to do a challenge test.

Do you not remember the other case the district is in court over? Where the district took it upon themselves to go get a medical opinion to overrule the medical opinion of the doctor of a child with a CF gene who did not have CF?

I think the people involved here in the district regularly act in untrustworthy ways towards parents, and the district's policies on allergy are enacted inconsistently and often in a backwards way. The parents here are just trying to protect their child, and what they are doing is hard enough that I can see no motivation for it except to protect the child. District people, on the other hand, are following legal advice and a track in recent years that is unnecessarily adversarial toward parents and costing us a lot of money and serving our families badly. Certain people have been there a long time and have their little fiefdoms, and no one to call them on being petty or petulant toward individual families.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 9:56 pm

@ parent of an allergic child - I have no problem looking at myself in a mirror - There was a judgment made in a court, the parents didn't like it and they are suing. That is their right, but it doesn't mean it is right. I totally empathize with them but just because they are the parents doesn't mean they get what they want for their child. There are plenty of parents who think they are acting in the best interests of their child who do their child harm. This includes the parents who do their child's homework, have tutors who do the child's work, etc. I could go on and on.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent of an allergic child
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 10:06 pm

@parent,
There was a judgment made in a HEARING that is the next step when the district and family don't agree. The hearing judge ruled against the family, and now the family is taking the case to a real judge.

"I totally empathize with them but just because they are the parents doesn't mean they get what they want for their child. There are plenty of parents who think they are acting in the best interests of their child who do their child harm. This includes the parents who do their child's homework, have tutors who do the child's work, etc. I could go on and on."

And I'm sure you will, going on and on judging this family by superficial and spurious analogies...

And FYI, because they are the parents, they will fight to do what's best for their child. I believe parents do know what's best for their children, this family has obviously had lots of experience providing for the child, the previous district I should note, also agreed with the parents and not with our district.

And this family, I"m just guessing, knows a lot more about what's best for their child than you do. You who would equate their pursuing due process for a seriously disabled child with parents who have tutors do their kids homework. Wow. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 10:13 pm

You win. You didn't like what I had to say so you insulted me and the not real judge who made the decision. Sorry you didn't get your way. .


 +   Like this comment
Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Is anyone else wondering how 15 hours became 40 hours? I may have missed as I went through the findings (thank you for the link, by the way).
"The IEP amendment stated that Pajaro Valley would provide Student a home program, to consist of 15 hours per week of ABA instruction in the home, two hours per week of supervision of the home ABA program, two hours per week of LAS therapy, and two hours per week of O" versus the article says that the family is seeking a plan "including 40 hours a week of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hello
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 6, 2014 at 10:26 pm

The Office of Administrative Hearings is basically a kangaroo court. Over 95% of the time the rule in favor of the public school districts. It is run by the government; therefore, it is completely biased. Special Education in this state is a total disgrace. I would expect much better from a town of Palo Alto's caliber. Palo Alto should work with this family. Maybe there is a private school placement for this child that could work? The family knows the child best and should listen to them not fight them!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent of an allergic child
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 10:34 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hello
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 6, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Why no Special Education Vouchers like Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Indiana and many other states? California is so behind the times. IDEA-2004 money should be portable and follow the child. Pin it to their shirts! Instead of lawsuits give the money to the parents. This is insane!!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Common sense
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 10:42 pm

We can afford a full time PR flack but not a home teacher for a severely disabled child? Not the right priorities.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by another parent of allergic child
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2014 at 10:45 pm

parent of an allergic child,

I am sorry for the family's situation, and hope things work out, but the district recommendations don't seem unreasonable.I did not see a reference to the child's pediatrician, and with the many experts, it's still unclear who ordered the skin test.

The point I was making is that it is difficult to provide accommodations for something that is an "if" it would happen. All of us with children with life threatening food allergies have that horrendous "if" hanging over our heads, and even if we did everything right, it can all not work. As it's impossible to avoid all accidents, reacting to anaphylaxis is critical though, so closer supervision in school is a good thing, which the child would receive. Nearby medical care should also be considered, we rely on that as well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by please explain
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Are all kids with severe allergies living in Palo Alto entitled to home schooling at PAUSD expense, or can they be accommodated in PAUSD schools? Are all severely autistic kids in Palo Alto entitled to 40 hours/week of ABA at PAUSD expense?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 7, 2014 at 7:17 am

Alphonso is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] I agree with a comment above that perhaps there should be some sort of State aid program for severely challenged kids - a voucher system and the parents pay for whatever balance there is.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 7, 2014 at 10:56 am

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

I am shocked at the incredible lack of empathy and Paul-Ryanesque "show your love by denying lunch to poor kids" stance toward this family. [Portion removed.]

This family should be sainted. They have a nonverbal severely autistic and cognitively delayed 12 year old who has outbursts, anger, and cannot really hear, understand, or interact with other people. He is getting bigger, he is getting harder to take care of. Many people in this situation choose to place their child in an institution but to their great credit this family loves their child so much -- so incredibly much -- that they have kept him at home. Not only at home but they have built their lives around him. They even moved to a hotel so that he could go to a school and get some help far away.

Then to top it all off, as if their Job-like suffering was not enough, whatever God might be in this situation also afflicted their boy with life threatening allergies to just about everything in this world. And he's non verbal so he can't tell anyone that he can't breathe, or that he's itchy. He can't even tell anyone. These parents have upended their lives, sterilized their home and his environment, and made careful way for him just to make him as comfortable and and healthy as they can. They don't trust the school to ensure that he doesn't get a stray peanut and they are worried about his pollen allergy suddenly striking him down when the aide is not looking for a moment.

These people are saints carrying an awful burden. All they want is for the district to send the teacher to their house rather than send their boy to the school where a moment of inattention could cause him terror or pain or even death. And should we really judge them? Have we walked a mile in their shoes? What suffering must these poor people endure?

As if it is not enough what they have been given, now the school is insisting that the family can trust them to send their son to school. It is well known that PAUSD has old buildings that have mold and other unaddressed environmental problems -- that's what the first OCR complaint is about. And it is also well-known that Terman (where Holly Wade wants to send this boy) ignored the pleas of a disabled student for over a year who was being bullied. Aides, teachers, and administrators looked the other way. Now this family caring heroically for a NONVERBAL child [portion removed] is worried about that history of inattention. Who can blame them?

Why would we not just give them what they want. Is it so much money? Does it really set a precedent? How many severely allergic severely autistic non verbal kids with a family who wants to live in a g-d bubble do you think there actually are? [Portion removed.] If you want to know what is wrong with PAUSD Special Ed, look no further than this execrable case.

[Portion removed.]

Dear family of this child: I am so sorry for your pain. I am sorry PAUSD is making it worse. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by mom of teenagers
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 7, 2014 at 11:04 am

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

@JLS Mom of 2 - You are totally right that we can not imagine how hard it is for this family to parent a severely disabled child. But if you read through the court documents, the child's allergic reaction was limited to hives. Twice. And the school feels that home schooling is actually limiting his growth and that he could actually be better served in a different environment with new challenges. So it is also about providing the best education for the student, not just about keeping him safe from allergies.

It is also not just a question of sending one teacher to their home. The student requires and deserves multiple types of support that come from multiple providers.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 7, 2014 at 11:15 am

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

I read the hearing (not court -- an ad hearing is not a court) documents. Multiple doctors testified as to the severity of his allergies. His pediatrician testified that he was at risk of anaphalaxis and death in the school environment. The allergist found that he was at risk because he has a disorder (pica) that causes him to put everything in his mouth whether it is food or not or he's allergic or not:

Dr. Saper recommended that in both the school setting and outside of the school setting, Student needed to avoid those food items to which he was allergic and those that carried a high likelihood of allergy. She identified these foods as milk and all dairy, peach, avocado, celery, other stone fruits, and the nuts he currently avoided, especially including hazelnut. She acknowledged that it was unclear what would occur should Student ingest a significant amount of any of these items. The report commented that since Student was non-asthmatic, he was at a lower risk for a life-threatening reaction, however, his pica, lack of language skills, and autistic behaviors placed him at increased risk of accidental ingestion. Therefore, Dr. Saper wrote that "vigilant caution" to provide a safe environment free from these specific foods was required. However, she did not expect that casual exposure without ingestion would cause a serious adverse reaction.

The only reason that there was ANY evidence at all in the record that he could attend school is because Dr. Saper is having a fantasy about the competence of PAUSD and especially Terman personnel to keep this child safe. No one can do it in a setting where they have so many high needs kids to watch. It's unreasonable to do to staff and wholly unreasonable to do this family in order to save a few bucks.

If this was YOUR CHILD would you want to take a chance that the school aide would look away at the wrong moment and your child would come home in a box? This family should be commended and aided for loving their child no matter what. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 7, 2014 at 11:58 am

Alphonso is a registered user.

Motivation for moving to PA is important. Sure, many people move to PA for quality education - they want a great education that costs around $13K per student. Of course there are some more needy kids who require special in school Teacher Aids that adds another $50K per child (an estimate) to the cost of education. I assume these parents are suing for something much higher (than $13K plus $50K) and much more than what they were getting in Pajaro. I do not doubt the parents misery and desire to help their child, but I am not sure they are being very reasonable. If you really think the PAUSD is short changing the child then why not offer to give them some of your own money.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 7, 2014 at 1:06 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

And despite the editors heavy red pen, I think it is completely fair to note that Holly Wade has taken an incredibly adversarial stance against special education families that has resulted in skyrocketing litigation costs for the district. Many many more families have been taken to due process and each hearing has been incredibly expensive. That money, rather than going to F, F and F (the Laurie Reynolds Home Improvement Plan) could have gone to this family. A due process hearing of this nature with expert testimony can cost upwards of $40K in legal fees and witness preparation alone. So, Alphonso, there's year 1 of the cost for the child. There apparently is a bottomless pit of money for the Holly Ward Cannot Negotiate Plan and zero money to just making it work.

In this case it is just very sad because this family is anything but the greedy, grasping caricature you portray. This family is suffering like Job. And to add to their misery supposedly in the name of cost savings while hemmoraging cash into the coffers of Laurie Reyolds' firm is just a horrible waste of taxpayer dollars.

Unlike Alphonso I am not making up numbers. Legal fees have increased over the past 3 years by more than 50%. I think it would be very interesting to know how much the district was spending in legal fees for due process before Skelly/Wade darkened our door.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Alphonso is a registered user.

Who is making up numbers? Teacher's Aids earn approx. $20 per hour and they get benefits - calculate it yourself - with your head.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SpEd parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 7, 2014 at 9:23 pm

SpEd parent is a registered user.

As a parent of a kid in the district with a similar profile, ASD, non verbal, PICA and other challenging and potentially dangerous behaviors but -minus the allergies, I sympathize with the parents and I understand the worries associated with sending children who need to be watched constantly to school. While I don't see any evidence in terms of history of allergies that are so severe that would prevent him from attending school, he does have a right to home schooling.
However I think the parents are living in fantasy land with how many hours they are expecting the school district to fulfill at home. At least at elementary school level, kids barely even have 30 hours of school in total/ week incl recess, let alone 40 hours of ABA, 2 hrs speech and 2 hrs OT, they are lucky to have half that for OT and speech and maybe 15hrs of ABA.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm

JustMe is a registered user.

My child attended Jordan for 6th grade with an IEP. We worked with the school to make sure the simple provisions of the IEP were covered, and the teachers understood the requirement and promised to make the necessary adaptations. They then proceeded to forget every promise unless we hit them over the head with it and they abused my child, severely damaging the self esteem. In some cases the teachers told my child flat-out lies and failed repeatedly to follow through on commitments.

7th grade saw us switch to home schooling, through the district. Once we got my child away from those teachers everything was fine and we have been seeing great grades and remarkable achievements.

It seems to me that if your child does not fit the narrowly defined mold these schools. If your child has an IEP then the parents need to be ready to actively and frequently fight for their child, and you still end up losing.

Jordan has a policy of self-sufficiency for its students, where the students must learn to advocate for themselves. I am sure this makes it easier for the teachers, not having to deal with parents, but what if the student is not equipped to stare-down a teacher that is in the wrong, making impossible demands, failing to supply the resources promised, or whatever? Those kids just get walked over and parents are not supposed to intervene. When it is teacher vs student, the teacher always wins, unless the student has an adult advocate.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 8, 2014 at 2:40 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

When I read comments like the last one posted by JustMe I have two reactions:

1. Rage
2. Wonderment. Why do people accept this clearly unacceptable level of service for their children? It is not just special education students who are being treated this way. Everyone with a problem is treated this way in PAUSD unless you happen to be special in some way (big PIE donor, PTAC board, friend of Kevin Skelly). If your child is fine, then that works well. If your child is ever not fine, you are probably getting the back of someone's hand.

If that happens you can count on being branded a troublemaker, your child treated badly, you feeling ashamed, and you have no one in the district office to appeal to because in PAUSD we let the sites handle it. Even if your child is the victim of out and out racism, the principal runs the show and if you don't like that, then you can just take your child to private school.

My theory on why there is so much trouble with SPED in PAUSD is that that is the group that cannot exit to private school, so they are stuck.

I would really like to hear why people having this experience do not organize, run candidates for school board, get more involved in trying to make change. As long as everyone is alone, just enduring like in the story above, nothing will change. People need to band together and work collectively to say enough is enough. Until then, nothing will change. I thought that when so many died by suicide that there would be momentum for change to make our schools more welcoming and less competitive. Then when the OCR found civil rights violations of the disabled I thought surely now people will act up. What will it take?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by HPA
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 8, 2014 at 5:40 pm

HPA is a registered user.

The District and Parents both need to compromise. The District's primary concern, whether the wish to admit this or not, is likely expense. They do not want to provide 40 hours a week of help at $30+ per hour because that is going to cost $40-50K+. It would be an interesting experiment to simply ask the parents what they would do if they only had X amount of dollars (for example $20-25K) to spend. Would they chose the classroom (after realizing that this is the most coverage per $)? Would they hire a smart caregiver using Craig's list or hiring a recent college graduate or current student or a para professional? How much would they spend on ABA specialists, speech specialists, persons with advanced degrees? Who would they hire and why? I suspect that a compromise can be made here. Parents should realize that public funds are limited and that even though life has not been fair to them that they must still be fair to others. The District should realize that this is a high risk situation with no "right" answers, no real experts, no predictable outcomes and, therefore, defer to parents judgement as much as possible within a reasonable budget.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2014 at 5:43 pm

village fool is a registered user.

@JLS mom of 2 -
You raised this issues shortly after the PAUSD board's secret meeting became public knowledge in a fascinating thread [portion removed.]

I responded to you, then that:
"I see several obstacles standing in the way of public grass rooting, organizing petitions, etc. The biggest one is fear of retaliation. I doubt anyone who currently has a child in PAUSD will risk the child well being, especially if there are current concerns regarding the child...." (part of my comment, I cannot copy all).
Here is a link to this very informative thread: Web Link

Obviously, these issues were discussed in other places. The fact that these type issues are still impacting children just amplify my understanding that nothing has changed, unfortunately.
Sadly, I think that my open address to Ms. Gaona- mendoza after the Oct 8th board meeting still reflects the current atmosphere - Web Link

I think that the Oct 8th PAUSD Board meeting provided a clear "preview" to the Jan 28th PAUSD Board meeting that was titled by the great editorial - Nadir.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that the real nadirs still happen mostly behind closed doors, no TV presence. I wrote more here - Web Link



 +   Like this comment
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 8, 2014 at 5:50 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

The only observation I would add to the prior post is that the district seems to have no trouble spending like a drunken sailor on lawyers and on public relations. If we are going to speak in terms of efficiencies, and I have no problem with figuring out how to pay for the greatest good for the largest number, then we have to also look not only at the dollars on this poor family but also for the dollars to pay PR Tabitha and the truth-challenged coterie from Fagan Friedman.

Let's treat every single dollar as if it must go to the highest and best use, not only the dollars for this one completely unique, sui generis situation in which, as the prior poster so eloquently put it, "this is a high risk situation with no "right" answers, no real experts, no predictable outcomes." What will the district say if this child with pica grabs something he is deathly allergic to and jams it into his mouth when no one is looking and dies. "Oops?" or "I blew it?"

The parents are obviously loving and attentive and should be able to decide that their child is not safe at school. The LRE mandate is NOT a club to use against parents, and certainly not these poor souls.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by frustrated mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 8, 2014 at 7:41 pm

frustrated mom is a registered user.

We need new and caring people in the special education department. Zepecky was not that good, but this new people are really, really bad. Holly Wade, Huertas, Zigler, and the new lady all need to go, they have formed a mafia, and they just care about saving $$$ at students' expanse. Only to end up expending more $$ in lawyers. Skelly should take them with him when he leaves along with Katherine Baker and Young. This is why the needs of our special educations students are not met. You complain with Holly, and she does nothing, you complain to Skelly and the Board, they sent you with YounG, and what does he do? NOTING!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2014 at 9:50 am

village fool is a registered user.

@moderator -
1. Can you, kindly, indicate that the beginning of my comment also removed? I do not understand how I violated the terms of use. Can you kindly let me know? Quite a few of my comments disappeared, completely before. I never understood why.
2. Can you, kindly, let me know how I violated the terms of use that had you remove the five words after "fascinated thread"?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 9, 2014 at 7:08 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

Why are the Latino families protesting against PAUSD? If there is systemic racism is there something that can be done to address it? Is it about disproportionality or what is it and why aren't the organizations that represent the interests of families of color saying anything about it? The whole thing is surreal. Can anyone shed any light on that? Is it about translation services, or special ed, or bullying or all three? I think we need to have some representation on the board for East Palo Alto. We have students and parents in our schools who have no representation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by frustrated mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 9, 2014 at 10:20 pm

frustrated mom is a registered user.

JlS mom,
Yes you got it; it is about all those things you mentioned. From all the minorities that composed the population of PAUSD, the Latinos have it worst because they do not speak the language, do not have money to pay lawyers, and some of them are very new to this education system and trust completely the system, and others take what they get without questioning even if they know that it is not right to place their child in special day classes because the parents are undocumented, and even though their children were born here, they are afraid of retaliation by the administrator who can take retaliation against them by treating their child badly or discriminating him or her. I remember a family who had just brought her child, the girl had just been at Barron Park for three months and she was already evaluated for special needs. The parents ended up pulling their child from PAUSD because they no longer trust the IEP members, and could not tell them not to the placement. The main problem was that this child did not understood what the heck was the teacher saying and there was not one to explain her or translated for her. The results of the evaluations were to place her in special education. Cases like this happen in every school in PAUSD. This is one of the reasons of over representation, African Americans have it a little better because parents speak the language and even though some of the parents might not know their parental rights, they do know about their civil rights, so PAUSD are more careful with the educated ones. For the Latinos, it is always a special education classroom, and no other choice. They are treated as if the administrators were paying out of their own packet. Right now there is a little girl who was bullied really badly at Terman and Holly Wade does not approve the appropriate placement. For the administrators the description of an appropriate placement is one of their choices, not what benefits the child. Really bad partial translations are going on where Magdalena Fittoria translates only what she wants and she should not do that because the parents do not get the opportunity to fully participate in the IEP process. A parent told her that she did not like when she translated and she got infuriated, and now she does not let her enter the classroom. It is awful the way our Latino Parents are treated, believe me it is not our imagination. If you pay attention to Dr. Skelly when a Latino parent is talking at the board meeting he shows a bored face and starts testing or talking to the board member nest to him. Well he is not a good model for the teachers,principals, or the students. We always teach them to have their eyes on the speakers and respect the speaker by listening.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


To post your comment, please click here to Log in

Remember me?
Forgot Password?
or register. This topic is only for those who have signed up to participate by providing their email address and establishing a screen name.

Grab a Bowl of Heaven soon in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 2,853 views

Don't fund the rape culture at my alma mater
By Jessica T | 36 comments | 2,335 views

Quick Check List for UC Applications
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,953 views

Mothers, daughters, books, and boxes
By Sally Torbey | 4 comments | 1,057 views

Campaign Endorsements: Behind the Curtain
By Douglas Moran | 10 comments | 1,045 views