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Lawsuit unless student expelled

Parents claim boy threatened rape and stabbed student


Three parents at Sherwood Charter School have threatened to sue the school and the Sherwood School District if they don’t expel a student they believe to be a danger to others.

In a letter delivered to the Sherwood School District and Sherwood Charter School Board last week, the parents, Steve and Kathy Kidd and Wendy Swift, said the charter school did not do enough after a student made repeated death threats and threats of sexual assault against fellow students.

The parents said they had to pull their children from the charter school after the boy reportedly stabbed one of the students with a pencil and threatened to rape a girl.

Ross Day, an attorney for the parents, said in the letter dated March 15, that the boy, referred to as “T.S.” was suspended for three days while the school conducted a “threat assessment,” after the student threatened the girl and then stabbed a boy 10 days later.

The school ultimately determined T.S. was not a “credible threat” to either student, Day wrote.

The boy was kept out of school for three days from Nov. 20 to Nov. 22, 2012, during the investigations, Day said, but neither of the other students were interviewed during the investigation, nor were the students’ parents.

“How a thorough threat assessment could be conducted without interviewing the victims is curious, to say the least,” Day wrote in the letter. “In the ordinary course of business, a student like T.S. would be expelled from school. However, T.S. still attends the school, while my clients’ students had to be removed in order to protect their safety. Something is backwards.”

Day said the families would decide whether or not to file a lawsuit based on the charter school’s actions now that the letter has been delivered.

“We may not (file a lawsuit) I don’t know,” he said. “It depends on if school district is going to do the right thing or not.”

The student in question has a mental disability, and his behavior is likely a result of that, Day said.

Day said in the days since the letter was delivered, he and the clients have been accused of picking on a special needs student.

“We believe every kid is entitled to free and appropriate public education, regardless of who they are,” Day said. “But we wonder if they are doing a service to this kid, let alone the other kids in the classroom.”

Under the boy’s individualized education plan with the school, the boy cannot be removed from the classroom, Day said, unless he presents a clear and present danger to fellow students.

“How often when we see a tragedy such as Sandy Hook Elementary do we ask, ‘Why didn’t anyone say anything about this person who committed these atrocious crimes?’” Day said. “These parents have brought this danger to the attention of the Sherwood Charter School administration for the last two years, and nothing has been done about it. One student has been stabbed with a pencil, another student threatened with rape. What more needs to occur before the board or the district take steps to protect these students?”

Day said the situation at the charter school has gotten so bad that a child brought a knife to the school to protect himself from the student.

Sherwood Police have investigated the claims, and the cases are still an open investigation.

Potential threat

The parents still have students who attend the school, Day said. The students are in the charter school’s elementary school program and are separated from the middle schoolers.

A potential lawsuit puts the school in a difficult position. Remove the student and the school is open to possible litigation because of the student’s mental disability, while doing nothing could result in a lawsuit from upset parents.

Day said he realized the lawsuit put the district and school in a difficult situation.

“Are we going to start determining who gets to stay and who goes based on mob mentality? Ordinarily, no, but there are extraordinary circumstances where it’s just not going to work. The ability for that student and other students to actually learn is being impacted,” he said.

Day said the school left the families with little choice, after the school took no action against the boy.

“Now five months later, we have never received so much as a peep to say here’s what were going to do to protect these kids,” Day said.

The Sherwood School District declined to comment for this story, but Sherwood Charter School Board member Keith Halasy said the threat assessment was run by the school and the district.

“It’s a specific process,” he said. “It’s not a process where Joy Raboli (the school’s director) says, ‘This is what I’m going to do’ and call it a threat assessment.”

Halasy, who was appointed to the board last July, said he understood the parents’ frustration.

“They are parents who are concerned for their kids,” Halasy said. “I think they were hoping for fast action and some sort of remediation ... We did do a thorough investigation as we told parents we were committed to do.”

Halasy said the school did a larger investigation after a formal complaint was filed with the board.

In that investigation, which began in late December, Halsay said the school spoke with all of the parties involved, including parents, students, teachers and other staff about the allegations and other incidents.

“We did our best to compile a very clear and accurate picture of what actually transpired and do more than react to individual parts of a story,” Halasy said.

Halasy said the Swift and Kidd families were interviewed, with the children and the parents together.

Halasy said that, in contrast to a “mischaracterization of school process in recent news reports,” the school appropriately handled student safety and discipline issues.

“At all times, Sherwood Charter School acted with student safety as a foremost concern, and will continue to do so in the future,” Halasy said.

The tiny school enrolls about 200 students, in kindergarten through eighth grade from about 110 families.

“It’s a pretty small school. A lot of these kids, end up in class with each other for six or seven or eight years,” Halasy said. “So the relationships between students are critical to the way the school functions.”

Halasy said the board was working with the Oregon School Board Association’s attorneys on an appropriate response to the investigation and the letter.

“Our work with them is predicating the speed of our response,” he said. “And we have been working with the district very carefully throughout this process to examine the threats. This is not the school principal, or the board acting unilaterally.”

Day said he has been in talks with three other families who have had to take their children out of Sherwood Charter School because of threats of violence by the student.

“If T.S. injures another student at the school, the liability for both the school and the Sherwood School District will be enormous,” Day wrote.

This is the second claim of bullying in the Sherwood School District in the past three years.

In 2011, a Sherwood family filed a federal lawsuit against the Sherwood School District after a student punched a boy, knocking out a tooth and breaking the boy’s nose at Sherwood High School.



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