Idaho Special Education Lawsuit Addresses Student Skills, Bullying

A trial pitting a mother of a teen with Asperger’s syndrome against two Idaho school districts kicked off last week, the Associated Press reports. Diana Abramowski sued in U.S. District Court to argue that the Boise and Meridian school districts didn’t provide the accommodations required under federal law for her son Matthew.

Abramowski is asking for money to cover alternative education arrangements as well as funds to pay for assistance needed for Matthew to “unlearn his bad habits.” In response, attorneys for the districts claim that as a student, Matthew was evaluated more times than any other student in the district and the accommodations he received fully complied with the requirements set out by the Americans With Disabilities Act.

In the lawsuit, the Abramowski family contends that Matthew started receiving special education services when the family lived in California and the services continued in his Meridian school when the family moved to the Boise region in 2004.
But when he was an eighth-grader, according to the complaint, the school district decided he no longer needed the services and removed him from his individualized education plan. Diana Abramowski told jurors Wednesday afternoon that she had her son independently evaluated and the schools agreed to create a plan that allowed him additional time to complete assignments and other accommodations.

However, according to Abramowski, the services provided by the district did not include social training that would have taught Matthew skills needed to relate better to his peers and manage his studies independently. He wasn’t taught how to set and meet academic deadlines, organize his reading and manage his studies.

In addition, the suit claims that administrators did nothing to curb bullying by other kids who would repeatedly intrude on Matthew’s personal space in order to evoke a reaction from him knowing he had issues with personal contact. Abramowski attorney Scott Learned told jurors that both male and female classmates would attempt to hold Matthew’s hand knowing that it made the boy uncomfortable.

Matthew’s classmates reported the bullying to teachers but nothing was done, Learned said, and the teen didn’t have the skills to express his feelings or struggles with family. As a result, in 2009, he set his parent’s house on fire and was sent to juvenile detention, Learned said. Today, he’s in his thirteenth year of school, Learned said.

“He’s socially isolated. He sees no need for organization, no need for meeting deadlines. He’s going to have to unlearn those strategies so new strategies can take their place … something the school districts should have been doing all along,” Learned said.