The parents of a former Morton Middle School student say Fayette County Public Schools violated federal and state law and retaliated against them after their child missed classes due to an extended illness.
The lawsuit, initially filed in Fayette Circuit Court in mid-March, was moved this week to U.S. District Court in Lexington because it alleges violation of federal laws.
In addition to the Fayette County Board of Education, the suit names Morton Middle School Principal Ronda Runyon, Morton guidance counselor Heather Ferguson and family resource counselor Jill Blackman as defendants.
Robert Chenoweth, a Lawrenceburg lawyer who represents the school district and the individual defendants, had no comment Wednesday on the claims in the suit.
The child, identified as “L.G.” in the lawsuit, was pulled out of Fayette schools in March 2017, the suit says. The parents are identified as “G.G.” and “L.G.” in the suit.
The boy was a Morton student when he was diagnosed with an E. coli infection in late September 2016. E. coli is a type of bacteria that can cause various illnesses, including pneumonia, urinary tract infections and diarrhea. In some people, certain types of E. coli can lead to kidney failure. Some patients die.
The boy’s mother told the school he would not be allowed to return for an extended period of time. From about Sept. 30 through mid-December 2016, the boy’s parents “kept in regular contact” with Morton staff, the suit says.
On Oct. 5, 2016, the child’s counselor contacted the mother and told her that some of his “work could be picked up, and that some of his academic coursework was available on the teachers’ websites,” the complaint says.
But on Dec. 19, 2016, the parents were required to meet with a court-designated worker because the school system had filed truancy charges over the child’s absences.
In January 2017, the child was approved for homebound instruction, allowing him to complete school lessons at home. On Jan. 18, 2017, the school system withdrew truancy charges against the child and his parents, the suit says.
On or about Jan. 25, 2017, the schools officially created a “504 plan” for the student. That is a plan that schools develop with parents to give students with disabilities or medical conditions any needed academic or classroom accommodations to help them achieve. A 504 plan also protects students’ rights. Such plans are named for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a federal law.
Nevertheless, “as a result of the ill-founded truancy charges and the lack of attention to the child’s right to an appropriate education,” the parents withdrew their son from the school district.
The suit says the public schools “failed in their obligation” to provide an appropriate education from September 2016 to January 2017. As a recipient of state and federal funds to operate the schools, the board of education is obligated under the Rehabilitation Act “to identify and provide a free and appropriate education to a child with a disability which affects a major life function.”
Furthermore, the parents allege they “were victims of retaliation when they were summoned to Fayette District Court for the allegation of truancy while out of school.” The initiation of the truancy process “caused the family financial harm as well as embarrassment and humiliation,” the suit says.
The suit seeks a jury trial, compensatory damages and damages for embarrassment and humiliation.
U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves will preside over proceedings in the suit.