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.