Special Education A National Roundup

Maine Parents Lose Their Bid for Autistic Son to Use Playground

By Ann Bradley — September 22, 2004 1 min read

The Falmouth, Maine, school district did not discriminate against an autistic 9-year-old boy in suspending him from using a school playground, a superior court justice ruled last week.

Justice Thomas Humphrey on Aug. 31 denied a motion by the parents of Jan Rankowski to issue an injunction ordering district officials to allow their son to use the playground. The boy’s behavior posed “a significant risk to the health and safety of others on the playground,” the judge concluded.

Last fall, school officials granted the boy, who has Asperger’s syndrome and is being educated at home, permission to use the playground. But they suspended his privileges in November, after Jan swore at staff members, kneed a student in the groin, threw rocks, and misbehaved in other ways, the decision said.

School officials told the boy’s parents that they wanted the boy to be evaluated and a plan written for his use of the playground, the judge wrote. But the parents refused to consent to the evaluation, arguing that it wasn’t necessary because the family already had obtained private assessments of the child, he noted.

The parents sued the school district in February.

Melissa Hewey, a lawyer who represented the district, said the decision showed that the district’s action was not discriminatory, but stemmed from the family’s refusal to work with district officials. Ronald Coles, a lawyer who represents the family, said he would appeal the decision to the Maine Supreme Court.

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