HP Family Appeals Court Ruling, Says District Neglected Disabled Student

A Highland Park mother claims her 13-year-old disabled son was left in his own feces, handled improperly with equipment he had outgrown, and educated inadequately at Highland Park schools from 2012-2015, despite a July ruling against her claim in district court.

She filed suit Oct. 17 to appeal the decision, arguing that the district should pay for her son’s private tuition plus damages and other expenses, as well as her legal fees: a total sum of more than $400,000.

The judge who made the ruling in July found that “the preponderance of the evidence established that the district’s [full individual evaluation] was appropriate,” and that the district “went to extraordinary lengths to include [the] parents in [the] student’s entire educational program and satisfied all collaboration requirements,” according to court documents.

HPISD spokesperson Jon Dahlander said the district “prides itself on having an outstanding special education program. We support, respect, and appreciate the tremendous work and dedication of our teachers, aides, and staff who partner with parents to provide the best services possible to our students with special needs.”

Although the district was able to prove in court that they did not violate the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement (IDEA) Act, the mother maintains that her son did not receive the free appropriate public education required by that law.

“HPISD … demonstrated an indifference to his welfare,” the appeal reads.

After three years at Highland Park public schools, she enrolled her son in a private special education program at Chase’s Place. The tuition for full-time education there can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000, depending on scholarship eligibility.

During his time at Highland Park, she claims her son regressed academically and behaviorally, “had little or no meaningful interactions with his peers,” and that the district withheld information concerning her son’s injuries, which included several falls.

She also claims he was mishandled by trained staff and that he was caused frequent discomfort when staff put on his orthotic devices incorrectly.

“HPISD staff members left him in dried feces on multiple occasions and failed to address pressure sores issues adequately,” the civil action appeal reads.

“HPISD failed to take the necessary measures to protect [his] health and safety and to prevent the recurrence of such injuries.”

In his ruling, the hearing officer said “the numerous accidents and minor injuries [the] student suffered while attending district schools were unfortunate and troubling.”

He also said they were “understandable,” due to the child’s condition.

HPISD states that “The [Administrative Law Judge] found that Highland Park ISD consistently provided the student with an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. The district believes that the decision is sound and is supported by the evidence presented at the hearing.”

An HPISD representative said the district is not at liberty to discuss the appeal since it is pending litigation.

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