Judge To Decide If Home-Schooled Boy Can Use Playground
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 23, 2004
FALMOUTH, MAINE--In three weeks, a judge could decide whether a public school can ban a home-schooled boy with Asperger syndrome from its playground for "misbehaving", the Press Herald reported Thursday.
Last year, Falmouth Public Schools officials prohibited 9-year-old Jan Rankowski from coming onto the Plummer-Motz School playground during recess. They said that the boy had broken playground rules by pushing a younger child too hard on a swing, and then cursing at teachers and the school principal.
Jan's parents claim that his behavior is a symptom of his disability, considered a form of autism, and that the school's ban is a form of discrimination. The Rankowskis tried to sue the school in federal court, but the suit was dismissed this spring when a judge determined that they had not exhausted all of their administrative remedies.
They then filed suit in state court, where they seek an injunction to allow Jan to use the playground when school starts, along with money damages to pay attorney's fees and other costs.
School officials said Jan's suspension from the playground was a temporary measure needed to design a program that would allow him to interact safely with other children. School attorneys are asking the court to dismiss the case.
A hearing is scheduled for August 20.
Groups that advocate for the rights of people with autism are closely watching the case.
"Disruptive behavior alone is not enough to exclude a child, because all children are disruptive at times," said Nancy Intrieri, interim director of the Autism Society of Maine, which plans to file a friend of the court brief in the case. "The playing field has to be level."
"Decision due in boy's lawsuit" (Press Herald)