DeLand, FL - The Volusia County School Board (VCSB) is the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed by the parent of an autistic child. The lawsuit, asking for in excess of $50,000,000 in damages, was filed Wednesday with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. The lawsuit follows an announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) of a settlement agreement with Volusia County Public Schools. The findings conclude that the school district did not comply with federal disability laws.
DOJ investigators say the district abused Florida’s “Baker Act” law, removing autistic children from classrooms unnecessarily and failing to properly train staff to handle “disability-related behaviors.”
The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Kimberly Powell, states that it's been difficult to get proper care and education for almost 12 years. At the filing, she said that her son was just eight-years-old when he was put in the back of a police car after school staff called law enforcement.
The DOJ investigation began in April 2018, "in response to a complaint received on behalf of 11 students with disabilities, 9 of whom have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, in various grade levels and from schools across the school district. The complaint alleges that VCSB discriminated against the complainants and engaged in systemic discrimination against students with disabilities by relying on overly punitive disciplinary tactics and law enforcement to address behaviors that are known, or should be known, manifestations of the students’ disabilities."
The next move is in the hands of a federal judge who will decide if the class-action lawsuit moves forward.