On Friday, March 8, 2013, our son prevailed against the Temecula Valley Unified School District in a due process hearing, and the judge ordered that he be returned to his High School, where he had been arrested, handcuffed and led away nearly three months earlier.

On Friday, March 15, our son returned to his school, vindicated.

On the same day he returned to school, the lead attorney who represented the Temecula Valley Unified School District in the due process hearing sent a lettter to the TVUSD Board of Education members, asking them to postpone - not cancel - our son's expulsion hearing, which had been scheduled for March 22. The rationale, according to the letter, is that the District intends to appeal the judge's decision.

Sarah Burge from the Press Enterprise reports.

A student with autism who was accused of selling marijuana last year to an undercover deputy returned to Chaparral High School Friday, March 15, but Temecula school district officials intend to appeal the judge’s ruling that ordered the teen to be reinstated.

The judge ruled March 8 that the teen’s conduct was affected by his disability and that the district had failed to provide him with needed counseling. But in a March 15 letter to the Temecula Valley Unified School District board, Sarah Sutherland, the attorney representing the district, requested that the board postpone an expulsion hearing for the teen that had been scheduled for Friday to allow time for an appeal in federal court.

And the irony is that even if a court would agree to hear the appeal, the appeal process would likely not be completed until well after our son has graduated.

My wife and I have released the following statement:

Despite a Judge’s ruling resulting from a five day due process hearing, TVUSD is once again attempting to expel our son from every school in their district. If the TVUSD Administration and school board are actually intending to appeal the Judge’s decision, what’s their purpose? It appears to us that the District is more interested continuing an endless and very expensive vendetta against our son and our family than focusing on serving the students and taxpayers.

The Judge’s decision was based on the weight of the evidence and factual findings from the witnesses’ testimony, and she ruled in favor of our son on both issues. In her decision, she wrote, “Student has overwhelmingly demonstrated that his actions were a manifestation of his disability”.

In order for the expulsion process to be revived against our son, the District would have to persuade a Federal Judge that the Administrative Law Judge abused its discretion when making its factual findings and legal conclusions on not just one, but both of the issues, which is quite ambitious and misguided. Even if an appeal were to be heard, our son will likely have graduated by that time, which would make expulsion irrelevant, and the District’s true motive questionable.

We’re not gloating about this victory as nobody won here. Our son and family have been deeply and profoundly impacted by the events of the last several months, but TVUSD’s apparent anguish over this decision does not justify using taxpayer-funded law firms to settle scores.

This questionable use of public funds remains a significant issue for the TVUSD, and this frivolous appeal would be prolonged and costly. In fact, during the 2011-2012 school year, the district paid over half a million dollars in legal fees for special education legal related matters alone, and we don’t even know yet how much they spent going after our son. These are decisions made by people with steep six figure salaries while school programs, staff, supplies, etc. are slashed or eliminated. We question this poor judgment.

As parents, we continue to teach all of our children that we can learn from our mistakes and become better people. Local public servants, school administrators and Districts too, can certainly learn from bad decisions. Targeting and making examples of students in their school environment never serves any valid purpose.

Last month, school board member Bob Brown said, “I’m sure this sent a message to the rest of the kids.” According to the court, it sent nothing but the wrong message. Is this vindictive message what we should send our children? Parents don’t send their children to school to be made examples of, instead, we expect our publicly-elected officials to set positive examples.

Our son started back at Chaparral High School last week and we sincerely thank the PUMA family, the students and teachers, for their sincere support and heartfelt smiles. Our son is back where he belongs and we are looking forward to good things.

Here's how the DKos Orange Army can help.

Make your voices heard. Voice your opinion in the comments section of the Press Enterprise article.

Also, feel free to contact the District personnel who have influence and/or involvement in this matter. Here are their email addresses and phone numbers (where available), which are part of the public record, and are posted on the TVUSD website.

The three who knew about the undercover operation, while it was happening:

Timothy Ritter, Superintendent
(951) 506-7904

Bob Brown, Board member and former board president
Term Expires: December 2014

Michael Hubbard, Director of Child Welfare and Attendance
(951) 506-7983

The remaining board of education members, who, according to our understanding at this time, were unaware of this undercover operation while it was in progress:

Dr. Kristi Rutz-Robbins
Term Expires: December 2016

Richard Shafer
Term Expires: December 2014

Vincent O'Neal
Term Expires: December 2014

Dr. Allen Pulsipher
Term Expires: December 2016

And here is the TVUSD website address:

For those who are new to this story, here are some links for background:

Our Autistic Son was Handcuffed and Arrested in School, We Were Not Notified

Our Autistic Son's Arrest in the Press, YOU got the District's Attention, They Freak Out

Undercover deputy targeted mentally disabled teen, parents say

Parents contest autistic teen’s expulsion at hearing

BREAKING - Our Autistic Son's Arrest: The Judge Has Ruled, VICTORY

Judge: Disabilities led to Temecula student's arrest

Our Autistic Son Returns to School Today, and Explosive Article Details Judge's "Scathing Ruling"

Autistic student not expelled? Heartbreak for Temecula “professionals”

Originally posted to doug snodgrass on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 06:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by KOSpectrum, DKos Cannabis Law and Drug War Reform, and Parenting on the Autism Spectrum.

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