Lawsuit alleges school system refusing services to disabled children

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a St. Rose student with autism alleging the St. Charles Parish School Board will not provide needed classroom-based behavioral therapy for the child.

School District spokeswoman Stevie Crovetto said the School Board does not comment on pending litigation.

Attorney Stephanie Lemoine said they will meet with Judge Lauren Lemmon at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 26 to seek a preliminary injunction aimed at stopping the school system “from hindering her provider of ABA services.”

ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, is considered the “gold standard” for assisting autism spectrum disorder children, Lemoine said.

Although the lawsuit was not the preferred option, she said the suit was filed when the School Board refused requests as far back as March to clear the way for the therapy at school for disabled students, which is apparently required under Act 696.

Adopted last year, the act allows children to be treated by private counselors during school while the school system decides the amount of time allowed for it.

The lawsuit, which identifies the plaintiffs as RJL Jr. and SVL, calls for a temporary restraining order to stop the school system from stopping the requested service for a student identified as “Tabby,” a six-year-old at St. Rose Elementary School. The court document states she is suffering from autism spectrum disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, which creates behavioral health impairments that interfere with her ability to act in an age-appropriate manner and makes her prone to aggressive behavior toward her peers and adults.

[pullquote]“Parents across the state, advocates and legislators are all involved with school boards passing policies to get around Act 696. This is a statewide issue.” – Attorney Stephanie Lemoine[/pullquote]

“With Tabby, they’re not allowing the class-based services,” Lemoine said. “The dispute is whether to remove kids from classes for a therapy session.”

Tabby is disruptive to other children with outbursts, but Lemoine maintains as little as nearly two years of therapy would help her resolve these behavioral issues.

“We have a solution for it and they don’t have to pay anything for it, and they’re saying no,” Lemoine said. “What do you say to the parents of a child yelling out in class and having tantrums that take attention away from teaching? It’s not the disabled child’s fault, but it does affect the other kids and it’s not fair to them.”

Lemoine maintains, as have others like Destrehan’s Kim Basile whose daughter also is autistic, that early intervention is necessary to keep these children in the classroom and from falling irreparably behind in education.

Basile also approached the School Board about the act and was invited to attend the system’s committee addressing policy on the act.

With as many as 1 in every 60 children diagnosed with autism on average, demands for help are mounting.

“Parents across the state, advocates and legislators are all involved with school boards passing policies to get around Act 696,” Lemoine said. “This is a statewide issue. Parents across the state are fighting so hard on this.”

The attorney maintains school systems are fighting the act because they don’t want another adult in the classroom, as well as putting “provisions that don’t guarantee a confidential place to provide these services.”


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