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Steven A. Greenburg, Education Law
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School destroys records for a special education student

One out-of-state school district is accused of destroying records concerning a special education student in an effort to keep information away from the family. This attempt is said to have cost taxpayers over $200,000. More importantly, issues as to whether the school district can be trusted have been raised.

A nine-year-old boy who is at the center of the investigation is said to suffer from various disabilities including autism. When the family moved to their current location, they hoped that the new school district would implement elements of the boy's Individualized Education Plan that was used when the boy attended school in California. There apparently were concerns that the new school district the boy attended would be overlooking some important items.

The parents claim that the school district resisted providing needed services even before the family moved.  They further claim that the boy started to regress when he began attending at the new school.  They complained that the boy started throwing temper tantrums and that he wasn't doing well in school.  They felt the head of the district's special education department was averse to getting the boy the services that he needed.

The father, who also happened to be an attorney, submitted requests for the boy's educational records.  In the process it was discovered that staff at the school district were being directed to delete records.  It appears that many of the deletions were taking place even before the young boy was enrolled in the school.  Records also continually were destroyed after the request for documents was made.  Finally, one staff member who turned over materials instead of deleting records was put on administrative leave and eventually fired.

We would hope that schools would be cooperative in a parents request when there are concerns about a disabled student's issues.  However, this matter demonstrates that school districts do not always cooperate or even necessarily abide by the laws.

Special education attorneys can represent parents in such matters and make certain their requests are granted.  Schools are required by federal law to set up an IEP to meet the child's needs.  Attorneys can file complaints with state or federal authorities if the plan is not implemented or happens to be ineffective.

Source: ABC 7, "Poudre School District destroys records to deny special needs family's access," John Ferrugia, Sandra Barry, March 3, 2014

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