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Did school give child who shot teacher proper services? Special education advocate says 'no'

Posted at 6:18 PM, Jan 26, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Central Virginia special education advocate said it would be "highly inappropriate" for a parent to attend school daily with their special needs child. Her comments come after the family of a 6-year-old who police say shot his teacher in Newport News said they were doing.

"The parent is to be a support, not to be the main provider of a service, especially if we see a child that has high needs. That's like me going in to conduct surgery on my child when a pediatric surgeon should be doing the surgery," Kandise Lucas, the special education advocate, said.

The 6-year-old child's family released a statement through their lawyer James Ellenson where they said their son suffers from an "acute disability," and he was "under a care plan that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day." They also said the week of the shooting was the first week "we were not in class with him."

The Newport News School System said that "since the school division’s investigation is ongoing, I cannot comment on the statements presented by the child’s parents at this time."

Charles Pyle, a spokesperson with the Virginia Department of Education, said it is possible for a parent to attend school daily with a child under an Individualized Education Plan or IEP, but "it would be rare."

A spokesperson with Richmond Public Schools shared the following statement with CBS 6. "Parents normally are not in the classroom unless the IEP Team deems this an appropriate accommodation. While not unheard of, RPS does not require parents to attend school with students or implement any goals, objectives, accommodations, modifications or supplementary aides written within the IEP. Parents are our partners in education and as such we will always be open to developing an individualized program that will meet the specific needs of our students."

A spokeswoman for Henrico County Public Schools said "school attendance by a parent would not be written into an IEP in that division." A spokesperson for Hanover County Public Schools said they would not have a parent attend class with their student on a daily basis.

"I would hope the school division did not make this a prerequisite for the child to remain in the school that the parent sit with the child," Lucas said.

CBS 6 asked Ellenson for more details about the child's care plan, but he said "we are making no further statements at this time."

The Newport News School Board voted to fire the superintendent on Wednesday. The Assistant Principal at Richneck Elementary resigned the same day.

Lucas said it's typically the assistant principal that oversees special education plans, but said many are not properly trained under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

"The JLARC report that was done in 2020 that was commissioned by the General Assembly specifically stated that the staff administrators are not trained to implement IDEA with fidelity," Lucas said.

Lucas said she believes the school should have determined if the child required a threat assessment and potentially required a one-on-one trained behavior aid.

"We are supposed to be the experts, to be able to implement the tier one, tier two, tier three interventions to support the child within the school setting. And if that was not possible, then alternative placement should have been explored," Lucas said.

At this time, it is unclear if a threat assessment was conducted in this case.

An alternative placement would be when a school division sends a child to a private school where the child could receive one-on-one care. If a school division cannot meet a student's needs, they will pay for a child to attend a private school that can meet those needs.

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