Fayette County

Judge backs Lexington schools. Parents said truancy charge over sick boy was humiliating

Morton Middle School in Lexington.
Morton Middle School in Lexington. Lexington Herald-Leader

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Fayette County Schools filed by parents who alleged they were retaliated against after their child missed classes with an extended illness.

U.S. District Court Judge Danny C. Reeves dismissed the lawsuit that was filed in April by the parents of a Morton Middle School student in Lexington. They accused the school district of violating federal laws and humiliating them by pursuing truancy charges over their sick child's absences. Reeves threw out the lawsuit Tuesday, saying it failed to state a plausible claim for retaliation.

Ed Dove, the parents' attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The child, identified as "L.G." in the lawsuit, was pulled out of Fayette schools in March 2017, the suit said. The parents were identified as "G.G." and "L.G." in the suit, which also was filed against Morton Principal Ronda Runyon and guidance counselor Heather Ferguson.

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 said. 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 lawsuit said.

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.

The suit said 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 was 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.”

The parents alleged 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 said.

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