Family sues El Campo school district over grandson's program

April 2, 2010 at 6:05 p.m.
Updated April 1, 2010 at 11:02 p.m.

After three years of fighting for what they say is their grandson's rights, an El Campo couple is determined to stay the course in a federal lawsuit against the El Campo school district.

The couple seeks monetary compensation on behalf of their 13-year-old grandson who suffers from reactive attachment disorder, coupled with a traumatic brain injury from his youth.

"When my clients first complained to the school district in 2007, all they wanted was for the school to stop using their (behavior intervention) plan," said Linda Glover, the family's Houston-based attorney. "Because the school refused, the couple is now faced with substantial expense for counseling for their grandson to address the trauma he experienced at the hands of the El Campo school district."

The grandparents and the student, who are referred to in the lawsuit by initials, were not identified to protect the juvenile's identity.

El Campo school district's superintendent declined to comment. The school district's lawyers did not return the Advocate's calls requesting comment.

The family voiced its disapproval of the school district's behavior intervention plan, attended a hearing with a state special education officer, filed a lawsuit in federal court and sat through an unsuccessful federal-court mandated mediation. Now, the family says it is prepared to take the next step in the legal process.

"We were unable to reach a settlement during mediation," Glover said. "We're now full steam ahead with the litigation. We'll begin depositions and supply expert reports, and we'll try the case if need be."

The alleged victim began exhibiting "increased aggression" after his original teacher's aide quit, subjecting him to a series of successor aides, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit further suggests the school district failed to listen to the boy's personal medical advisors. Psychiatrists and psychologists said his physical aggression was a result of an inconsistent environment.

Rather than listen to the boy's personal medical advisors, the lawsuit continues, the school district hired a behavior analyst. The analyst developed a behavior intervention plan that called for denying the boy access to comforting objects and isolating him from the general school population.

"Thy isolated him in a classroom with just the teacher and the teacher's aide," said Glover.

Additionally, the lawsuit said the plan called for 45 trials each day in which a "purposefully-frustrating demand" would be placed on the boy.

If he did not comply immediately, the plan called for the demand to be repeated, increasing the boy's frustration and ultimately leading to his physical restraint, the lawsuit claims.

From December 2006 through May 2007, the boy was physically restrained about 40 times as a result of implementation of the plan. The restraints caused him emotional and physical trauma, according to the lawsuit.

"The school district believes it didn't do anything wrong," said Glover. "Rather than accommodate his disabilities, they provoked them. Texas law prohibits restraints except in cases of emergencies."

The family removed the boy from the El Campo school in 2007, home schooled him for more than a year and enrolled him in the Louise school district in 2009.

"They ignored our complaints," the grandmother said, referring to the El Campo school district. "As a parent, I'm appalled the school district refused to listen to the advice given."

The family also filed a separate lawsuit in state court against the Central Texas Autism Center, the behavior analyst's employer.



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