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Monday, December 3, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall

As Drew hit third and fourth grade, anxiety pervaded his family’s life. The youngster, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at age two, was stressed and defensive. Jennifer would brace herself for the regular phone calls she received from school staff asking her to come in and calm Drew down — and twice to take him home. On the occasions he managed to run away from school, she feared for his safety. Drew’s parents, never set out to sue their school district in Douglas County, Colorado. “We didn’t want to pull him out of the school,” Joe said. “We didn’t want to take them to court. We didn’t want to do any of this. But we were pushed into a corner and had to — to get what he was entitled to by law and what he needed.” [i]

Elehna was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that severely limited her mobility. Her dog Wonder was trained to help her balance, retrieve dropped items, open and close doors, turn on lights, and take off her coat and other tasks. Ehlena’s elementary school in Napoleon, Michigan refused to allow her to attend school with Wonder. The school said she already had a one-on-one human aide, as part of her individualized education program.  Elhena and her family filed suit, claiming discrimination because the school deprived her of the independence that other students enjoy in school, and that Wonder could help her achieve, including in intimate settings such as the bathroom. [ii]

Luka, a nine year old with Down syndrome in Hamilton County, Tennessee, attended general education classes at his home school since kindergarten. His parents though he was performing well and intended to keep in that setting. In second grade school officials announced that they intended to move him to an intensive special education segregated program because they asserted he had “hit a wall academically.” In the second grade.  The parents disagreed, withdrew him and placed him in a private Montessori school and filed for due process.[iii]

Each of these students is from a different state, with unique characteristics.  What they share however, is the common experience of having to fight to realize their right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment like their peers without disabilities. They share the all too common struggle to be provided the services and supports they need to make meaningful progress in school. They are fortunate to have families that know their rights and are prepared and able to do whatever it takes to enforce those rights. They have knowledgeable and skilled advocates and attorneys who are members of this organization representing them. They had COPAA’s amicus support as the cases moved through the judicial system (see COPAA Website for Amicus Briefs). Their cases garnered national attention and are of national significance for others to come through the public education system.

COPAA members are the voices of students with disabilities and their families that need to be heard.  We need your help to continue fight tirelessly to protect and enforce the civil and legal rights of students like Drew, Elehna, and Luka all across the country.

Please support COPAA’s work with a tax deductible donation today.

[i] Schimke,Ann  -  November 15, 2017 Inside one Colorado family’s long legal journey to affirm their son’s right to a meaningful education retrieved from Dec 3 2018 https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2017/11/15/inside-one-colorado-familys-long-legal-journey-to-affirm-their-sons-right-to-a-meaningful-education/

[ii] Chung, Andrew.  February 22, 2017. A Girl Named Elehna and a dog named Wonder win at the U.S. Supreme Court. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-dog-idUSKBN1611Y6.

[iii] Henley Miller, Clair. January 13, 2016. Mother of Child with Intellectual Disabilities Says Son Does Better in the Mainstream. https://www.chattanoogan.com/2016/1/13/315978/Mother-Of-Child-With-Intellectual.aspx


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