Florida school district must pay family $720,000

Discussion in 'Special Ed 101' started by Sheila, May 1, 2008.

  1. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    From http://www.theledger.com/article/20080501/NEWS/805010535/1338/NEWS00 :

    Published: Thursday, May 1, 2008
    Polk Schools Must Pay Family $720,000

    Administrative judge says district failed to adequately educate autistic student.

    THE LEDGER Write an email to John Chambliss
    John Chambliss
    Education Reporter

    LAKELAND | Polk County schools failed to adequately educate an autistic student and now must pay up to $720,000 to give 22-year-old Andrew "Drew" Sammons a proper education, an administrative law judge has ruled.

    Bill and Janie Sammons have fought the School District for four years, contending their son was allowed to graduate without receiving the academic instruction or training in developmental skills that the law requires disabled students be provided.

    In a 20-page ruling, Judge William F. Quattlebaum in Tallahassee sided with the Lakeland family, saying Polk's failure to provide a proper education for Drew Sammons was not the "accidental result of inadequate educational planning."

    "It is clear (the district) was either unable or unwilling to provide the appropriate services to which (Sammons) was entitled," Quattlebaum wrote.

    "This case established that Polk County didn't have means to teach autistic kids," said the Sammons' lawyer, Timothy Weber, of St. Petersburg.

    Polk school Superintendent Gail McKinzie said the district learned of the ruling Monday, and is considering filing an appeal. A decision will be made within 30 days.

    "We're looking at the judgment that has been rendered and will decide what to do," McKinzie said.

    It's been an expensive fight for both sides. If the ruling stands, the district could end up spending $1.8 million, including $300,000 that Quattlebaum ordered the district to pay the Sammons for their legal bills.

    The district's legal fees have reached $786,782.

    Quattlebaum ordered the district to pay up to $144,000 a year for five years to educate Drew Sammons at a private school. The expense includes a teacher, an aide and classroom. The district was also ordered to pay for any behavioral therapy that is needed.

    Bill Sammons, a commercial real estate broker, said the district tried to "bankrupt" him.

    "I am disgusted with the waste of money and resources that were unnecessary. If there was anything I could have done I would have," Sammons said. "I begged the board to look at the facts when the new school superintendent came in."

    The Sammons sued the district in 2004, saying their son was forced to leave school without the education and training he should have received.

    The district has maintained that Drew Sammons fulfilled the requirements for graduation, including passing the FCAT.

    The Sammons family and district have been in and out of court for four years.

    In 2006, a judge ruled that the district did not meet its obligation to provide a free and appropriate education to Drew Sammons for the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 school years, his last two years in school. After numerous appeals, Quattlebaum issued penalties against the district.

    Drew Sammons was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, when he was a young child. He attended Polk schools since kindergarten.
  2. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Wow! Thanks, Sheila! Maybe I'll make plans to move to Florida now- all I have to do is find a way to come up with $300,000 for legal bills- oh yeah- what about the parents' time off work and the extra compensation for whatever the boy was doing for those years that he should have been in an appropriate school?

    Will they ever get it??

    This is just my frustration over school district's- not trrying to be sarcastic to our moderators who keep us informed!!
  3. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    We should all be thankful for parents who fight the battles, as the rulings benefit all.
  4. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    WOW! I think this judge is GREAT!!! This helps clear the way for all of our kids to get what they NEED.

    Thanks for posting this.