FALCON, Colo. (KRDO) -- Parents of a D49 student are suing the district, claiming it’s violating federal law by not providing necessary services to their special needs student.
Corbin Andrew’s dream is to be an engineer. However, his parents told 13 Investigates they worry the 17-year-old won’t be able to achieve his goals because School District 49 is not implementing and following an appropriate individualized education program.
The parents claim this violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which “ensures a free and appropriate public education is provided to children with disabilities.” These special education services are laid out for each student through an individualized education program. According to the Andrew's attorney, Igor Raykin, D49 failed to make appropriate plans for Corbin, from middle school and into high school and then failed to follow those plans.
“If you have plans for a kid and that kid is still not making adequate growth from year to year, then you need to adjust those plans,” he said. “Normally that means a greater level of specialized instruction. That didn't really happen here.”
So the Andrew’s filed a federal lawsuit against D49 on Sept. 21, stating Cobrin’s “goals were either not ambitious as required by 34 C.F.R. § 300.320(a)(2) or Plaintiff’s case manager—who changed multiple times over the course of the year—was unable to properly measure Plaintiff’s progress.”
According to the lawsuit, the Andrews paid for an independent education evaluation in October 2022 to reevaluate Corbin’s learning level. The evaluator said Corbin’s “current IEP goals did not seem reflective of his needs and abilities. Specifically, the (district’s) goals reflected that he was performing close to grade level when in fact he was far from it.” Yet when the independent evaluator offered recommendations to the district, it didn’t implement them, according to the lawsuit.
“These kids who have special education plans are the most vulnerable, the most needy, and in the weakest position,” Raykin said. “They, at the same time, are getting the lowest level of services, unfortunately.”
13 Investigates reached out to District 49 about the lawsuit, but it declined to comment on pending litigation. The lawsuit also mentions staffing problems within the district, including multiple case managers and special education teachers quitting.
“Two of these teachers both quit largely because of their inability to serve their special education students as a result of the District and School leadership requiring that they spend their time and energy performing other duties,” the lawsuit states.
Raykin said funding at both the national, state, and district levels affect special education programs.
“Funding is always an issue with kids in schools and especially with special needs kids,” he said. “Oftentimes there are schools that are just doing basically the bare minimum for these kids.”
The Andrews filed a complaint with the Office of Administrative Courts, which found the complaint “sufficient.” According to the lawsuit, D49 denied multiple requests for mediation and declined to offer any settlements during resolution meetings, so the administrative law judge dismissed the case. This federal lawsuit is trying to get the courts to overturn the dismissal, Raykin said.
“While we're doing all of this legal mumbo jumbo back and forth, we have a kid who's still not getting a proper education and will not be getting a proper education in the near future and is going to be going off to college with skills that are behind,” Raykin said.
The Andrews aren’t the first family to claim D49 failed to provide educational services to special needs students.
Jeremy White’s daughter, Charlotte, went to Inspiration View Elementary School. While she was there, he said the district wouldn’t allow her to have her private behavioral specialist at the school. But he said when she didn’t have her private specialist, the school didn't provide appropriate services.
“It would be like if you had a service dog and you went to the movies and the movies said, ‘Hey, you can't bring your service dog in here, but we have one over here just as good but not trained to you,’” White said.
Like the Andrews, the Whites filed a complaint against D49. After resolution meetings, the Whites settled with the district. However, White said the district quickly violated their settlement agreement and again failed to provide appropriate services. So this year, White moved his daughter to Banning Lewis Ranch Academy, a charter school within D49 but not affiliated with the district’s special education program. He said Charlotte is now receiving the help she needs and is “flourishing.”
“If we built the foundation and it's going to take a couple of lawsuits for these schools to start saying, ‘Hey, we're not doing right by the kids. We need to have a paradigm shift in the way that we're thinking.’ Then mission accomplished on our end,” White said.
However, not all families are able to move their children to another school. Raykin said if Corbin’s education services don’t improve he could fall behind impacting the rest of his educational and career future.
“We're talking about a kid who's really going to be starting from behind when he goes to college, and then that makes things more expensive and may take longer to graduate,” he said. “If he can't get caught up, then we may be looking at a different major and suddenly that's affecting a kid far down the line in terms of the amount of money that they're able to actually make.”