Family sues over special ed

first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SOUTH WHITTIER – A family whose complaint against the South Whittier School District sparked a state investigation into its special-education practices has filed a federal lawsuit against the district. Teresa and Jose Trujillo are suing the school district, its board and administrators, the California Department of Education, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state. The suit involves the district’s dealings with the couple’s son, who formerly attended a district school. The Trujillos filed a complaint with the state Department of Education in December 2004, prompting the department to launch an investigation into how the South Whittier district implemented their son’s Individualized Education Program. State education officials found in March 2005 that the district failed to comply with state regulations in three areas regarding the boy’s specialized program, his privacy rights and timely access to his complete school records. An Individualized Education Program is a customized plan that describes a child’s educational special needs and which school services are available to meet those needs. State officials ordered the district to remedy the problems. By then, the Trujillos had transferred their son to a school in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District. However, in their federal lawsuit, filed earlier this year, the Trujillos claim that the remedy never came. They also fault state officials for making it impossible for parents to seek relief through the complaint process, and for not holding educators responsible for violating professional practices. The couple is seeking counseling and compensatory education for their son, or that the district pay for extra tutoring and educational services to bring him up to grade level. They also are seeking attorney’s fees. The couple also asked for punitive damages, although the suit does not specify a monetary amount. Both sides are due in court Monday. “First and foremost, we want the district to change,” Teresa Trujillo said Wednesday. “But they’re not going to change until they’re forced to.” David Morton, the district’s fiscal services director, said he could not talk about the lawsuit. “Under the advice of our counsel, we’re not at liberty to discuss it at this point,” he said. However, the district’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the suit. They claimed the case is “moot” since the boy no longer attends school in the district. “There is no live issue between these … parties,” the appeal states. District lawyers also said the district has fully complied with the state education department’s orders handed down a year ago. They said the district provided the couple with educational materials recommended in their son’s Individualized Education Program. But the Trujillos say they’re most concerned with what they say was the district’s misdiagnosis of their son’s abilities. They said IQ tests administered by the South Whittier district showed their son scored at a near-genius level. But tests done at his new district determined the boy’s IQ was about 20 points lower, putting him in the normal range. The couple said they fear the district has also wrongly evaluated other students. “It couldn’t have just happened to us,” Teresa Trujillo said. O’Connell’s spokeswoman, Hilary McLean, said she could not comment on pending litigation. Generally speaking, she said O’Connell “feels strongly that schools and districts should follow the law and ensure students with special education needs are served in an appropriate fashion.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3051last_img read more