Hypothetical 2: AT Tele- Conference Training Series

Patty was walking home from school one day when she saw something shiny in the grass. It was a letter opener, with a mother of pearl handle and a rusty 4 " blade. Thinking it might be an antique, she picked it up and showed it to her brother Linus. Linus thought it was cool and put in his backpack so he could later show it to his uncle, the history buff.

At that time, Linus was in 6th grade at Walt Whitman Middle School, and had been eligible for special education since the 2nd grade due to both a learning disability in written language and Attention Deficit Disorder. Per his IEP, he received assistance with written homework assignments for 2-5 hours per week in the Reading Resource Room. He did not receive any other special services or accommodations, and had not received any since he was found eligible. Prior to being found eligible, he was evaluated using a standardized test of written language. The MET team based its eligibility decision on a review of the test results and an oral report from his classroom teacher. Although emotionally immature and very forgetful, Linus had never been disrespectful to teachers and had not been disciplined at school beyond the occasional lecture about losing his homework or daydreaming in class.

Not surprisingly, Linus forgot to remove the letter opener and it fell out of his back pack while he was at his locker the next morning. It was retrieved by a hall monitor who turned it in to the principal. The hall monitor removed Linus from class as soon as he returned from the principalís office and dropped him off at his day care provider. Although Linus asked the monitor repeatedly why he was being taken home, the monitor only responded that "the school board would take care of all that." Consequently, when his mother picked him up from daycare that evening, Linus was only able to tell her that he was sent home from school and didnít know whether or not he was supposed to return the next day.

In order to receive state education funding, Deereville Public Schools is required to have a Zero Tolerance Policy with regard to dangerous weapons. Like the federal standard, a "dangerous weapon" is defined as " a weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, animate or inanimate, that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury, except that such term does not include a pocket knife with a blade of less than 2 1/2 inches in length". (18 USC 930).

As a result, Principal Skinner immediately began to process Linusís transfer to the Daisy Hill Alternative School and U- Stor, the districtís alternative interim educational setting. As soon as he completed the paperwork that evening, he called Linusís mother at home and informed her that he had been found with a dangerous weapon on school property and had, therefore, been transferred immediately to Daisy Hill. He was to begin attending Daisy Hill the next day.

Linus did attend Daisy Hill. When his mother dropped him off the first morning, she observed that classes were held in windowless concrete rooms. Linus reported that the students ranged greatly in age and ability, that there was no Reading Resource Room and much of the teacherís time was spent maintaining order. The text books were not from the same series that Linusís former teacher had been using and appeared to be leftover from years past. In at least one subject, the Daisy Hill teacher repeated material that Linusís teacher had covered earlier in the year. No services other than regular large group instruction by the classroom teacher were provided to Linus and no other meetings were held about him while he attended Daisy Hill. Linus also missed the administration of the DAT (Deereville Achievement Test) which was administered in the 4th, 6th and 8th grades to test student achievement and school performance. When his mother inquired about it, she was told that none of the Daisy Hill students ever took the DAT.

Like her son, Linusís mother was generally a shy person and had not had any previous conflicts with the school district. She decided to wait for one week from the date of his transfer for someone from the school to call her and explain what was going on. Then, when a week passed and she had heard nothing from the school, she called Principal Skinner and requested that Linus be returned to Walt Whitman. Principal Skinner informed her that he had spoken to the districtís attorney and due to the Stateís policy, the best they could do was to place Linus at Daisy Hill while they prepared for an expulsion hearing. He apologized but said his hands were tied Ė the Zero Tolerance Policy required that Linus be expelled. He told her that Linusí expulsion hearing would be held at the next regularly scheduled school board meeting, 15 days away.

Overwhelmed by the news, she called in sick to work and stared at the phone book. None of her children had even been in trouble before and she had no idea what to do. After a handful of futile calls, she was referred to a local community service organization which provided her with a booklet about special education studentsí rights. The booklet explained that a special education student could not be expelled without an IEP meeting, a manifestation determination, and a functional behavioral assessment or revision of the behavioral intervention plan, at the very least. It also informed her that she had a right to contest the decision at a due process hearing.

She wrote to Principal Skinner immediately, requesting a due process hearing and hand- delivered the letter to his secretary. Later that day the Principal called her and suggested they try to resolved this matter through mediation. Linusís mother agreed because she hated the idea of fighting with the school system and hoped they could work something out. She attended several mediation sessions but they yielded little, as the districtís representative repeated the Zero Tolerance Policy and said that the policy left nothing up to the districtís discretion. With the school board hearing only three days away, Linusí mother panicked and made a flurry of phone calls. She was eventually referred to her local protection and advocacy agency and Linusís case was immediately accepted.

You are the case handler. Where do you start?